Gay-themed love story “LOEV” is garnering accolades and is being appreciated at prestigious film festivals on foreign shores. But in India, the film, which explores a same sex romantic relationship, will not even release in theatres and director Sudhanshu Saria says people have a very conservative idea about the film.
In India, “LOEV” has released on video-streaming app Netflix and not in film theatres. Saria says he and his team are facing ample problems in “getting the bigger critics to review us”.
“People have a very conservative idea of what a film is and how it should be released. We are having a tough time just getting the bigger critics to review us because we haven’t released the film in theatres. The critics know why we aren’t in theatres — there simply isn’t a way to get our sort of film out and these are the very journalists who write about our draconian censorship laws,” Saria told IANS in an email interview from Cannes.
“Frankly, it’s disappointing that when a film like ours fights with dignity and chooses to screen in its original format, instead of championing the film, the critics are making excuses for not reviewing the film,” he added.
Saria said the Oscars “don’t care how the film was released” and believes that “our critics or awards bodies” should also not care about such things.
“A film is a film, let it be critiqued or rewarded for its merits,” he said.
Saria is “confident enough to challenge anyone to find a performance more vulnerable and moving” than late actor Dhruv Ganesh in “LOEV”, who passed away earlier last year of tuberculosis.
Not promoting the film as a voice for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer) community, Saria says enough films have been made about the “heteronormative oppression”.
“This film isn’t interested in saving them (members of the LGBTQ community) from any kind of heteronormative oppression at all — enough films have been made about that. This film actually doesn’t give a damn about society’s attitude towards this community. It simply tells a love story with dignity and care, the same dignity with which (late filmmaker) Yash Chopra made ‘Lamhe’ or ‘Kabhi Kabhie’,” said Saria, who has produced and directed projects like “His New Hands”, ” I’m Here” and “A Tight Spot”.
“That might be the most political thing about the film. The film will find them and they will find the film — I’m not worried about that at all,” he added.
Pointing out that members of the LGBTQ community should not be referred to as “them” as if “they are in some ghetto community living in the bushes”, Saria says it’s a shame that society has not been able make each member feel safe enough to open up.
“Every person reading this interview knows someone in their family, someone in their workplace, who belongs to this community. We may have compelled them to hide in open sight, and not tell us their truth, but let’s not for a moment pretend that they are somewhere far away without access to media or what not. And shame on us for making everyone not feel safe enough to be honest with us,” he said.
Is Indian society living in denial in the context of love between two individuals of the same sex’
“I think we are professional hypocrites. Everyone knows everything, but we look the other way and choose not to talk about it. We don’t want to acknowledge the truth because it forces us to actually deal with it, change and grow.
“Honestly, it’s our collective loss that our diverse society isn’t allowed to live its truth. There is a lot of love and value in everyone, regardless of the superficial label we stick on them. The moment we start embracing them, we can let them live their life to the fullest and that enriches everyone,” Saria added.
It is high time, said Saria, that Indians acknowledge some truths that are very much there but we seem to turn a deaf ear towards them.
“A repressed or frustrated person will always act out in some way; you can’t force someone to live out a lie without any repercussions. This is a much greater problem than censorship or cinema and it’s high time we evolved and acknowledged some truths,” he said.
Saria, whose aim is to contribute to the public discourse, push buttons and get people to talk about subjects like homophobia, sexual orientation and consent, feels motivated when the screening of thought-provoking films leads to debates or passionate arguments.
(Kishori Sud can be contacted at email@example.com)
By Kishori Sud