Qaushiq Mukherjee, better known as Q, is a filmmaker whose work spans features and documentaries. Q first shot to the spotlight with Gandu (2010), and has consistently broken norms related to sexuality on the big screen. He spoke to Siddhartha Mishra about the camera as ‘voyeuristic’ device, his experiences in front of it and behind, and also about the politics of the image. Excerpts:
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Do you remember your first experience with a camera?
I was never interested in cinema. I took a camera when I got interested in a camera. I was into documentary films and realised there was a world of digital imagery that needed to be looked into. I bought a Sony handycam in 1998. It was portable and very personal—that’s what changed everything for me. I made my first few films on that medium. The idea and presence of such a voyeuristic device was interesting.
Do you remember the first time you recorded just yourself?
I quite remember. I was pretty pro.
What was the urge?
I was quite old, 30, so I knew about the engagement and the politics of the image. I was a porn fan, an erotica aficionado, so I was fairly clear about the idea of the image turned on its head, and knew what I wanted to achieve from that. I was a big fan of Nan Goldin and Nobuyoshi Araki, artists who have explored this idea. So I was committed towards that artistry of the image from the beginning. It wasn’t a raw image for me, not something I was fumbling with. I was clear and conscious of what I wanted to say.
Or was it born out of just wanting to capture a moment?
Both. Capturing the moment and documenting reality too was something I was really interested in, as a filmmaker. And the idea of distended reality, my fantasy sort of unfolding itself in real time—something I’m recording and also participating in, at the same point of time. It was half-instinctive, half-conscious about the way this could fit in a larger theme of narratives I was already seeing for myself, which it did. Ultimately, some of my images from my personal sex tape went into Love in India.
What about the levels of consent of the partner? Who initiated it?
I was already a filmmaker when I was doing that. My partner was an actress who knew what she was doing. So initially the situations were, I would say, completely consensual. Later, when it became some sort of a game rather than a narrative exercise, even then consent in my case is imperative because of the kind of eye I have, the general context I come from, the ‘kind’ of films I make. You assume already that I’m a dirty f**k, a pornographer. What’s not clear to people are the larger political and sociological constructs. What’s imperative to me is the sexuality of a situation and that for me has always been consensual…. I’ve only had these opportunities because people are already committed to that.
Is the recording for yourself and your partner? Is it something you’re willing to put out or share?
I’m primarily a documentary filmmaker, so my impetus comes from the idea of documentation itself.
What does watching yourself do to you?
I’m not a complete narcissist, so I don’t think the image of myself is getting me off. From a recording point of view, there’s a sense of narcissism that I’m in this moment. But later it becomes academic for me, rather than sexual. I don’t quite get the idea of the dick pic, for instance. Just the image of genitalia doesn’t make sense to me. It doesn’t have context to it. I’m more interested in the narrative itself than the preservation of the ‘glorious sexual self’.
Privacy concerns? People today tape their webcams and mics….
I consider myself a relatively intelligent person who understands the technology. Level-headed paranoia has always been there, as it should be for everyone. So my camera is covered and I choose the moment when the camera is uncovered.