QUEEN'S ROAD: At the Open Frame Film Festival in New Delhi on Sunday, two young filmmakers will showcase their film In the Mood for Love, which explores the lives of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community. The film delves into the tough realities and inner reflections of its protagonists.
According to makers Sandeep Kr Singh and Aakriti Kohli, discussions on homosexuality in India with reference to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code have not included any deliberation on the right to love. In December 2013, the Supreme Court put aside an earlier verdict by the Delhi High Court, and re-criminalised homosexuality and consensual relationships between same-sex partners. “In light of this, our film, which is produced by PSBT (Public Service Broadcasting Trust) and Doordarshan, seeks to firmly put the idea of love back into the discourse on homosexuality.”
The film was shot between October 2014 and March 2015, mainly in Delhi and Mumbai. But it addresses issues unfolding behind closed doors and spilling on to the streets across the country. In an email conversation, Sandeep and Aakriti shared with City Express what compelled them to tell these untold tales. Excerpts:
The question the film asks is what are the different ideas surrounding love? Is there a bigger problem with the idea of sexuality itself in our social system?
Compounding this problem is the denial of the right to love for those who do not subscribe to the template of hegemonic, compulsive heterosexuality. We think the most difficult challenge is the constant intrusion into LGBTQ lives, which both fetishizes them as a community and derides them as deviants. The biggest issue of course is the ‘illegal’ tag on consensual sex between same-sex persons. As a democratic country, we need to extend these rights to all of the population.
As research and media practitioners who have been writing and reflecting on the ideas of sexuality, love and togetherness, we were compelled to examine this issue. With the SC judgment, a lot of our friends and colleagues were deeply affected. We feel that the idea of heterosexuality has been so normalised in popular discourse backed by religious fundamentalism that we need as many alternative voices as possible.
There are many stereotypes and misconceptions that continue to stigmatise the LGBTQ community. Our attempt through this film is to dispel some of them. Additionally, we realise and believe that the suppression of homosexuality is a product of the same system that oppresses women and perpetuates a hegemonic patriarchal discourse on gender and marriage.
How we see LGBTQ
In popular thinking, same-sex couples or partners living together are not painted as going about their lives in a routine manner. Initially, the idea behind the film was to document the lives of couples, their views on love, their everyday relationship issues and their negotiations within the social system. However, our understanding of the matter also evolved and we realised that there are multiple iterations of love, experienced and lived differently by different people. This is when we decided to also feature subjects who were not in a relationship at the moment but still deliberated on their idea of love. The film features people from various professions, including those in academics, fashion styling, activism, animation, painting and banking.
Another concern was to also have our subjects reflect on the LGBTQ movement in India, how it has been shaped, the roles they played in it, and the conflicts and challenges. The people in the film deliberate on ways the movement can become more inclusive and lend itself to other social issues as well.
Film of hope
Indian films on the LGBTQ community have done phenomenally well in documenting stories of oppression and struggle, describing the historic ongoing struggle seeking legal recognition. But we also felt that there was room for discussing the idea of love and its many interpretations. It was a conscious decision on our part to look for stories of hope and triumph.
Representation is always a challenge because it is essentially a construction of personal experiences and ideological leanings. The challenge is to represent your subjects in a way they would want themselves to be represented, to respect the trust they place in you and to use your judgment while using conversations and moments that may pose an ethical dilemma.
Since we have explored their everyday lives and highlighted the ordinary, there is extraordinary in the routine. We hope these moments evoke contemplation, reflection and understanding among viewers.
PLAN TO SCREEN FILM IN B’LURU
In the Mood for Love will premier at the Open Frame Film Festival, organised by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust, on Sunday. The screening will begin at 5.20 pm at India International Centre in New Delhi. The filmmakers say they have plans to screen the documentary in Bengaluru in the coming weeks.