‘Ascharya Fuck It’: Bringing Manto’s Bold Story On ‘Prostitutes And Pimps’ To Life

Ek badan, do ball, ek kamar, ek choot, ek gaand. Aur kya kahegi ek raand?” (One body, two testicles, one waist, one vagina, one ass. What else will a whore say?), says a woman looking into the camera. This is how the bold trailer of Samit Kakkad’s upcoming adult drama begins. Inspired by the writings of Saadat Hasan Manto, “Ascharya Fuck It” is an upcoming film based in the modern city of Mumbai.

The names of characters like Kanta (sex worker) and Khushiya (pimp) have been taken from Manto’s stories itself. Kakkad made his debut in 2012 with the Marathi film “Aayna Ka Bayna”. His second feature film “Half-Ticket” (2016), also in the Marathi language, received critical success and was shown at various international film festivals. This is Kakkad’s first Hindi-language film.

YKA caught up with him in an interview, where he talks about the not so conventional title, cinema in the age of Netflix, self-censorship, about choosing to make a film where the important characters are pimps, sex workers, etc. and more.

Sourodipto Sanyal (SS): Why did you choose the name “Ascharya Fuck It” for the movie? People don’t use explicit words in titles, usually. 

Samit Kakkad (SK): I don’t think it is explicit because people use that word in normal life. You know, my maid, sometimes when she makes a mistake, she says, “Oh fuck.”… So, it is a normal bloody thing of life today ya. And we don’t want to be hypocrites and say, “Oh, I am not going to use that word.” It is there. It is there in normal life.

Every day, you do it, I do it, my father does it, my mother does it, my girlfriend does it, my friends do it, my brother does it, my niece does it, my sister does it. So ab isse zyada kya ho sakta hai? You know, it’s a very normal thing. Everybody should now go beyond it. It’s a normal word which people use…

At the same time, while using that word, you are not insulting anybody or you are not trying to put down anybody. It is a normal way in which the youth talks. Every person, from the 10th standard. This is how the youth talks…

SS: Do You self-censor yourself?

SK: I will never self-censor myself. Because then, as a filmmaker, I will fail. I don’t want to do that. Why should I self-censor? There is a censor board for that. That’s not my job. My job is to make a film with utmost honesty and truth… What I am showing is the truth. I am not showing anything which is false. What I am trying to show in my films is 100% true. And for that truth, I can fight anybody. I can go up to any length and fight with any person in the world because this is a film which I want to make. This is the film I’ve made. This is the film I want people to watch. And I want them to watch the way it has been shot. Because the minute you start censoring yourself, your texture goes away, your tone goes away, the language goes away.

SS: The film has been inspired by the writings of Manto. At the beginning of the trailer, we can also read a quote by him. Can you tell me, what is it about his writings that inspired you so much that you decided to make a movie?

SK: His work was mostly about the interior thought of the characters. He sought to give characters that people really thought about.  Be it a prostitute, a pimp, or even a film actress. You know, there are layers to every character. There are many layers.

And you know Manto, you have read about Manto. He used to write about characters on the fringes of society. And he has captured their voice. That was the scene…

SS: Both your earlier films dealt with sensitive issues but centred largely around kids. What motivated you to venture into something so different?

SK: I think every filmmaker should do that. Try and make different kinds of films. And I was very lucky enough because I got this opportunity thanks to Yoodlee Films, which is Saregama. I think Yoodlee Films is a boon for filmmakers. They are the best thing that could happen to any filmmaker in this country. Because they believe in good content. They are not scared. They believe in fearless filmmaking and they have given us an absolutely open ground to shoot the way they want to. And they are not scared. They don’t question you.

I was called and spoke about the content of the film and they were so very cool about it. First of all, it is a little bit of shock because the company is also Saregama… But they were so very cool about the cinema they wanted to make. They are the most fearless people I have met in my life.

SS: You’ve chosen to make a film on pimps and sex workers. One of the main characters is a pimp, one of the main characters is a sex worker. They are considered to be the ‘underbelly’ of the society. And the lives they lead, the professions which they pursue are highly stigmatised. Why did you choose to make a film with such people as main characters?

SK: First of all, the biggest thing is that they are human beings. They are more honest than anybody in the world, according to me.

SS: Why do you think so?

SK: Because I have met them. And I feel they are very honest people. They are in this business because of some kind of chutiyapa which has happened in their lives, maybe. But they are at least honest at what they are doing. They are not trying to be hypocrites at all. And my film suits all of this because the plot is around them…

While location hunting, I met so many of them. I met prostitutes. I met pimps. And the way they talk. They are so very human. And they are normal people. I met them in the daytime. I met them in the evening and I met them at night. Because I was location scouting all over Bombay… I really find that they have something really really nice about them. But they are in the world they are…

And it absolutely suits my film.

SS: How has the emergence of Netflix changed cinema in India, both from the perspective of the filmmaker and also the audience?

SK: Oh, it has changed a lot. People can watch better films right now. That’s the biggest change. And so many different options available to you. With so many different languages available to you. So, you don’t have to waste your time going to a theatre and watching a bad film and paying through your nose. You can sit at home and watch a brilliant film which will make you very happy and make your day…

I was discussing with some college students. They are hooked to “GOT”, “Narcos”, “Breaking Bad”, “Good Vibes”. And they talk about it. This has never happened before. People used to never talk about films sitting on the college katta. People now talk, ‘ki next episode mein kya hone waala hai’. People wait for it. I think it is a great change. And everybody should subscribe to Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar. You know that is also a learning process for many students and filmmakers because you have an entire platform with so many thousands of films there. You don’t have to do piracy. You can watch the cinema that you want. Either learn something from it or if you don’t want to learn, you can at least enjoy. It’s a great feeling. I watch it, you watch it. Everybody is watching it.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons/ YouTube snapshot

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