just doing his job

Jasmyn Singh and Kaizad Gustad bounce thoughts back and forth through cyberspace
By Jasmyn Singh

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After viewing Bombay Boys, Jasmyn Singh tracked down Kaizad Gustad via email to get insight into the director's motives for writing and directing a modern day Indian tale.

Jasmyn: You are a published writer, screenwriter, and filmmaker, what do you feel are the different advantages offered by these mediums?

Kaizad: Writing to be published offers greater creative freedom and flights of fancy. The writer is not tied down by constraints as the screenwriter or the filmmaker is. And since the tools the writer employs are simply pen and paper, it is at once a challenging and dynamic form of expression. The conflict that leads to exploring and creating impressions happens within. And the only thing the writer faces is the blank page - not 100 cast and crew members awaiting further instructions.

Screenwriting is an exciting visual art form that lends itself to all sorts of constraints ranging from the financial and the practical to the technical and the market oriented. Filmmaking is an amalgamation of all arts. It is the most compulsive medium of expression. And hence can be best used to address themes and issues.

Jasmyn: Recently the Indian press has listed you as one of "Mumbai's most influential men." Do you identify with this ranking?

Kaizad: No. I'm simply a filmmaker trying to do my job as honestly as I can.

Jasmyn: What role do you see Diaspora South Asians playing in how the Western Hemisphere views the subcontinent?

Kaizad: Too long a question for me. I don't like words like Diaspora or NRI [Non-Resident Indian]. They seem limiting, and I have always refused to be limited by a label.

Jasmyn: Bombay Boys takes on the task of presenting to screen a modem day India that Western cinema has ignored. What other filmmakers do you feel are presenting the diverse realities of India today?

Kaizad: No others that I know of... except there is a small trickle of new filmmakers who are trying to bust some myths - Nagesh Kukunoor and Dev Benegal among them.

Jasmyn: Your film challenge Indian censors by addressing controversial and hostile issues such as imosexuality. How do you feel the Indian film industry is addressing ie diversity of experiences and realities of Indian society?

Kaizad: Bombay Boys does not challenge the Indian censors. It offers stimulation to broaden horizons. The censor board has shown exemplary maturity in clearing Deepa Mehta's Fire without a single cut*. And the film is playing to packed houses.

The flip side of the coin is that these films catch the sexually undernourished Indian audiences off guard and hence are not received in the context they should. Perhaps a regular dose of the so-called "controversial" and "hostile" fare should douse the initial excitement of the audience and make them ready for a mature viewing. Bombay Boys is a step in this direction.

Films like Daayra and Darmiyaan have, with limited success, tried to address such issues in the past.

Jasmyn: Does being identified as a South Asian filmmaker concern you due to the expectations that you will only, and should only, focus upon making films about your ethnic affiliations?

Kaizad: I do not consider myself a South Asian filmmaker... never have. I am an international filmmaker and will continue to explore themes that are relevant to me and to a personal identity. That doesn't necessarily limit itself to a South Asian identity - its time that Indian filmmakers broke out of these constraining limitations defined by birthplace and not by talent.

*Editor's note: Bombay Boys was released in India on December 25th, 1998 but not before 20 cuts (audio and video) had been made to the film by the Indian censor board. Here are some of the more humorous cuts:

  • All shots of a lizard killed by Mastana (Naseeruddin Shah) have been cut.
  • In a sequence where Kirshna Sahni (Naveen Andrews) visits a theatre to watch a Hindi film, the song-and-dance sequence on screen has been censored. "Raju Babu", the film from where the sequence was taken, was cleared by the censor board a few years ago.
  • The work chutiya has been censored in one place, while Chutiyapanti has been okayed. Further, Chutiyapanti has been censored from the film's trailer.
Handprint design by Sherazad Jamal.
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Jasmyn Singh
Jasymn Singh is a writer that resides in Toronto and Vancouver.
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
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