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Indie adventurer explores the depths of his obsession
NIDHI GUPTA  15th Jul 2012

A still from Karan Gour’s Kshay

hhaya, the protagonist of Kshay, has seen a distempered statue of Goddess Lakshmi and finds it to be the most beautiful thing. Her desire to own it exceeds her husband Arvind's financial situation and, eventually, her own sanity. Very rarely has the possession of a mind by an idea, an abstraction been taken so seriously in Indian cinema.

Disturbed psychologies have been a much explored subject in Hollywood, but with the exception of Ram Gopal Verma's thrillers, which qualify in the genre of horror, there is little our own film industry has to offer. Yet, Karan Gour, an independent filmmaker chose to portray a woman in the grips of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), as his lead character for his debut. It doesn't come as a surprise, then, that it was his own experience with obsession that led him to instigate and complete Kshay, a movie that has been receiving great reviews across the world.

"I am a very obsessive person by nature. I think it helps me get really intricate with a lot of work I do, be it music or writing. So I wanted to explore the theme of obsession for my first film since it's so close to me," he says, explaining the reason for choosing a subject that most would dismiss as depressing. His inspiration came from realising the simple difference between different levels of concentration: "Nature gave us passion, and we, through the course of evolution, have often turned this into an obsession. Passion has a finite nature to it while obsession breaks all boundaries and can explode. That uncontrollable aspect of obsession is something I felt like exploring."

Apart from directing the movie, Gour has also written the script, scored the background music, edited and produced the movie with a little assistance from friends and family.

Apart from directing the movie, Gour has also written the script, scored the background music, edited and produced the movie with a little assistance from friends and family. With Abhinay Kopharzi to shoot the movie and Shaan Vyas to help out with the promotion and finances, the team was complete – as complete as it needed to be with Gour's own obsessive drive to get this movie done. "I do not think our budget (Rs 1.5 lakh over four years) can be compared to other movies. Most of us did not get paid and in a conventional setting, their budgets include technician fees etc, which we couldn't pay or charge," he says.

Interestingly, the starkness of the narrative is enhanced by a grainy, black and white montage, which is how the entire movie has been shot. "Chhaya, the main character in Kshay only thinks in extremes. Her decisions, throughout her quest to possess the Lakshmi, are either black or white. I think that's a very integral part of obsession. Moreover, I didn't find any reason to insert colour into the couple's lives. It just didn't fit into the narrative," notes Gour.

In the past year, the movie has won accolades abroad, at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and at the South Asian International Film Festival, most notable among them, not only for the concept and direction, but also for the stellar performances by Rasika Duggal and Alekh Sangal as the lead couple. Next, they will be playing at the Bollywood and Beyond Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. But despite such critical acclaim, the movie hasn't drawn in too much of a mainstream audience on home turf. Recently, when PVR showcased the movie for a week in their Director's Cut Rare segment, the halls were far from packed. Is it the subject of the movie that has kept the audience away? Do narratives around psyches not capture eyeballs unless they have a little blood and gore to offer in India?

"That is what distributors and studios say. But then I believe that's just demeaning the audience. Our audiences are quite smart and unless someone makes a smart film, we can't make that assumption. Christopher Nolan made Inception and it did see packed houses in India with people watching it multiple times. Today, with the Internet reaching not only a person's house but also his phone, audiences are very aware of things. I recently met a person who could not speak 10 words in English but knew about every great Korean film made in recent times," he says.

The next couple of years will be very interesting for indie cinema since, such films do have a platform for exhibition and an audience actively seeking them out. If Kshay's success is anything to go by, we can rest assured that this new breed behind the lens has good things coming.

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