As a filmmaker, I am bored of my life being only about acceptance: Director Onir

“Our lives extend far beyond that acceptance. And I wanted to do a simple love story of a man spread over three decades.”
Pine Cone is deeply personal for him. It was conceived during a time of professional frustration.
Pine Cone is deeply personal for him. It was conceived during a time of professional frustration.

KOCHI: Love. Desire. Romance. Heartache. These themes are widely explored in our everyday cinema whether a mushy love story or a hilarious rom-com. But when it comes to queer representation, most stories are so caught up in the idea of acceptance and the struggle that goes with it, showing the simple joys and conflicts of everyday life escape the visual narrative.

Trying to give a chance to gay love on the big screen, national award-winning director Onir has brought out his latest film Pine Cone — a semi-autobiographical tale that celebrates queer love and desire, featuring a queer actor in a leading role, probably a first for Indian cinema.

“Most films about queer narratives focus on the heteronormative world accepting us,” says Onir. “Our lives extend far beyond that acceptance. And I wanted to do a simple love story of a man spread over three decades.”

The film traces pivotal moments in Indian queer history, starting with the first gay pride parade in Calcutta in 1999, through the landmark 2009 Delhi High Court judgement, and culminating in the post-Section 377 era in 2019. “At the same time, the main story is of love as an individual navigates through life in a society that is slowly changing,” Onir explains.

Pine Cone is deeply personal for him. It was conceived during a time of professional frustration. “I made Pine Cone at a time when a film that I was trying to make — We Are — got banned by the Ministry of Defence. I was frustrated because it was a film based on a real story. There are many stories based on hate that easily get through certification, but mine was about love and it was banned,” he says.

But he is now happy as it led to the movie that recently premiered at the prestigious BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, the biggest LGBTIQ+ festival in Europe.

Onir reflects on his previous works, My Brother... Nikhil and I Am for which he won the National Award in 2010 and 2011, respectively. While both movies were considered ahead of their times, he believes the audience needs to evolve.

“There is a certain double standard in our society — people are scared about accepting gay love. The audience needs to understand that their sexuality should not be so fragile that watching a film would threaten their identity.”

He adds that there is also a tendency to fit queer identities within heteronormative frameworks.

“While such films are also important, I feel that often, these stories try to fit us into ideas of family and society’s acceptance. It is okay if your identity is not celebrated by your family, then you make new families which are not biological. As a filmmaker, I am bored of my life being only about acceptance.”

Onir, however, remains undeterred. He is committed to pushing boundaries and telling stories that matter.

His future projects include an anthology My Melbourne directed by Onir, Kabir Khan, Rima Das, and Imtiaz Ali as well as We Are, which he hopes to complete this year.

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