BENGALURU: Muhammed Unais was in Class VII when the Malayalam film Chanthupottu released. “It clearly misrepresented the queer community. Personally, it gave me heartache and depression,” he says. Years later, Unais came out to his friends in Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram. “It was during my post graduation. They were really supportive and accepted me for who I am,” he says.
Now, Unais’ struggle to claim his rights will be documented by Bengaluru-based award-winning filmmaker Prithvi Konanur. The untitled documentary will document Unais’ confused childhood, the consequent ‘coming out’ years later and the life after. The focus will obviously on Unais’ life in an orthodox Muslim community in Kerala.
“What is different about Unais’ story compared to others in the LGBTQ+ community is that his family, which is highly religious, has largely accepted him,” says Prithvi, who is known for his feature film ‘Railway Children’. Prithvi’s co-director for the documentary film is Rashid Sheikh. “Based in Bengaluru, he is also a queer Muslim but closeted,” he says. Unais’ story is part of a major documentary project titled ‘Queer, Muslim’, which attempts to give voice to the oppressed and desperate.
But life was never easy for Unais, who is currently a second-year BEd student. “After coming out to my friends, I wrote an article before the Pride March in Thiruvananthapuram. Focusing on intersectionality, it was about being a Muslim and queer at the same time. That went viral. My case was widely discussed in religious circles across the state,” he says.
Since then, his family and friends have come to terms with my sexual orientation. “Though we don’t have many discussions about it, my family has accepted me and loves me as a person. It is the society that does not let me be. We are always subjected to people’s questions and opinions. This is what affects my family the most, especially my father. But my youngest sister is very supportive and counters them with comebacks to those who question my sexual orientation,” says Unais.