Q&A with director Punarvasu Naik

This is your debut as a writer/director. Where did you your inspiration for the idea?

I grew up in Mumbai, where the annual Ganesh Festival is the biggest one celebrated by people from all the layers of society alike. The euphoria, which engulfs the city for ten days of the festival, is phenomenal. At the same time, my city – like many other cities in the world – is subjected to numerous bomb blasts and terror attacks. On the same streets I have seen gory visuals of innocent dead, my fellow countrymen.

A few years ago, I was having a chat with my friend and the writer of the film, Yogesh Joshi. He narrated to me this idea of a bomb hidden inside a Ganesh soft toy. I was immediately fascinated by such a close proximity of creation and destruction. The idea seemed so relevant as a series of bomb blasts had happened near a temple, which happens to be close by to my house. I felt as close to God as to death. Through Yogesh’s idea, I figured I could comment on a lot of things in my city.

Why did you decide the title Twisted Trunk, Big Fat Body was the appropriate title for the film?

Elephant-headed God Ganesh is the one with a twisted trunk and big fat body. The title comes from an ancient scripture, which praises Ganesh and asks him to remove all the obstacles from one’s life. Since the film is about how society treats and behaves with Ganesh, I felt this title would be right way to tell the audience of what they are to expect on screen.

The film is set in Mumbai, Melbourne's sister city. What chaos and contradictions do audiences see on the streets in the film?

In the film, while people treat Ganesh’s soft toy as God – they respect him and worship him – they do not mind to use him for their personal gain and then let him go to someone else. In a way God is left at the mercy of people. May it be a thief, a politician or a common man, they find a way to include Ganesh for a short while in their daily lives and then they move on as soon as they find a new and better opportunity to achieve their goals.

In Mumbai, life is very tough, busy and fast paced. People don’t have much time to mourn over things. Even though there is a bomb blast, the next day the life has to go on. People still crowd to the trains and buses with same energy and pace to reach their work. Some people call it spirit of Mumbai. I would say those people don’t have a choice but to move on if they need to survive in Mumbai. It doesn’t mean they are insensitive; they just can’t afford to stop, as they have to take care of their beloved.

The film is about terrorism, and is part thriller, drama and comic farce. Why did you decide to mix these genres together?

The film is not just about terrorism. It is also about God and people’s perception towards it. Since I always wanted to comment on it in a satirical way, the dark humor came along with it. As far as thriller and drama is concerned, it evolved during the writing and making process. Different recurring characters came with their states of mind. We just let the characters react to their situations. The outcome was a result of their emotion at that moment in the story. When a terrorist is concerned about a ticking bomb, which has gone missing and he has to finish the job, his anxiety brought in the thrill aspect. The street kid who is very attached to the soft toy and is not able to keep it with himself, his pain brought in the drama. So in a way the film evolved during the making process with these mixed genres. It was not intentional.

How large is the independent film scene in India outside of Bollywood?

It is still in miniscule stage but I have to admit things are getting better everyday. The audience in India has been exposed to world cinema through the internet and social media. I feel the young generation of India is willing to watch cinema that is not just song and dance. With the digital age, making a film is getting less costly. Hence producers are willing to fund a film that is high concept, low budget. So there are some excellent indie films being made in India at this moment. The problem lies with high costs of marketing and exhibition of the film. India, being a massive country with high population – the amount of money needed to market the film is huge. The distribution network does not see any profits with such high costs. Hence a lot of films are not able to reach their audience. But with the support of mainstream cinema and its stars, indie films have started getting limited releases. Through social media the marketing costs are getting cheaper. I hope for a brighter future.



© Melbourne International Film Festival 2013.

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