Documentary Review:Love in India by Q (Kaushik Mukherjee)
To say that Love in India is outrageous is not an overstatement. The documentary is anything but sweet and innocuous as its title. It’s the ruthless dissection of the moral and cultural fibre of Indian society, and a pretty unabashed one at that. What do you expect of a filmmaker who exposes his personal life before the camera without any qualms? He doesn’t need to mince words when he is talking about the society at large. Here in fact, Q comes up with revelations so stunning and thought provoking that they might seem to be eye opening at first. But they are hardly revelations at all, they are the things which we knew all along and thought should be kept under wraps.
The filmmaker has blurred the two realms: private and public. Based on his own love life, Q has a hypothesis which he must now verify, and constantly looks outward for it. Q and his girlfriend Rii are two sexually liberated characters who in the discovery of their selves are also raising many uncomfortable questions. Through Love in India, Q has set out on a journey to find out the stories of love, or rather how India thinks about love. This is, in effect an exploration of the sexuality of the Indian people and the dichotomy associated with it; the now repressive society that once celebrated sex.
Q’s film doesn’t have any place for timid and conservative characters. It is a compilation of testimonies of love and sexuality from people out there who can dare to bare it all on camera; led by Q’s love Rii. Q and Rii not only reveal some of the most intimate secrets of their lives on camera, they also have their intimate moments captured on camera. And then there is Q’s mother, his uncle and aunt, and his friends testifying to their encounters with love and longing, some through personal accounts while others through eccentric quasi religions of love that they are followers of. And as we notice, everyone is characterized by conspicuous audacity, which runs through the entire film to give the audience a feeling of being outraged or then well, liberated, towards the end.
Love in India draws upon various instances from everyday life which expose the irony of the Indian people. They need an identity devoid of name and face like Love Guru on air to be able to discuss the problems of their love (read sex) lives, as private as premature ejaculation. And as long as they too remain anonymous, they don’t mind being heard on air discussing these problems. Similarly, there is a recurring scene in the documentary of girls and boys playing dandiya during Navaratri, meant to be a devotional dance in honor of the Goddess Durga. It’s a known fact that the cases of premarital pregnancy and abortion go up manifold during the festival of Navaratri, with young girls and boys spending nights together.
When one talks about sex at socio-cultural level, popular cinema can’t be left outside the discussion. Q talks about sex being packaged beautifully by our cinema, to produce hilarious results. A film distributor narrates how everyone likes to watch those titillating B grade films. The women though put up a countenance of disapproval, secretly enjoy it. The distributor simplifies it down to the fact that we are born for sex, and that one needs either a star or sex to make an Indian film work.
The way Q has gone about deconstructing and demystifying cultural and religious motifs to explain the significance of sex in Indian culture is commendable. He is personally, extremely fascinated by the saga of Radha and Krishna, considered to be the God of love; and he has completely peeled the layers of divinity off the gods. The love of Radha and Krishna has been presented as an illicit love affair between a promiscuous man and a woman of expertise. The filmmaker has chosen this saga of supposedly divine love worshipped over generations over the regular “land of kamasutra” rationale to bring out the hypocrisy in the Indian society. According to Q, the dichotomy is between the morals and norms of the society vis-à-vis the truth of the heart. The director who is out on a journey to find answers, has questioned all the mores of the society pertaining to love, marriage and sexuality.
The documentary also borders on the raunchy at times, like the scene where Q and his girlfriend are watching their own sex video. However, there is nothing titillating or flippant about the film, it has been dealt with the maturity of an adult trying to percolate into the skin of the society he is a part of to be able to solve the confusion around sexuality. It’s an extremely personal film, and a stunning social commentary at the same time.