Homosexuality in India, UK explored in film
Rangayan deals with gay complexities in India, UK
By Umang Kumar
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — “Yours Emotionally,” a gay-themed movie set in small town India had its Boston premiere at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Jun 30. Parmesh Shahani, a research scholar in the comparative media studies department at MIT, organized the screening attended by about 50 people.
The story revolves around Ravi, played by Premjit and Paul, played by Jack Lamport, two friends from Leicester in the United Kingdom, who travel to India to attend some gay to-dos in some small towns: first in Gujarat and then in Shimoga, Karnataka.
During a party they attend, Ravi meets a local man called Mani, played by Prateek Gandhi, to whom he takes a liking. Ravi and Paul also come across an older gay couple who act as their hosts in Shimoga and give them glimpses into their lives and the social issues they faced in the expression of their love for each other.
Sridhar Rangayan, the director and co-scriptwriter of the movie who lives in Mumbai, was at hand for the question and answer session that followed the screening. “There are very few queer Indian movies other than the well known ones like ‘Fire’ and ‘Sancharan,’ the latter a recent Malayalam movie,” he said. Through this movie, he said, he wanted to highlight some of the gay issues that exist in India and in the United Kingdom.
Rangayan also said that he wanted to show the reality of gay living in small-town India where such activities tend to be very secretive and far less understood than in the metropolitan areas.
He said that this movie had been shot over just eight days and it had taken about six months to complete production. He was grateful to several members of some of the gay community in India who agreed to be on screen for various scenes of the movie. He also explained how the movie was made on a very tight budget. The character of Paul for instance, played by Jack Lamport, had his flight to India for shooting purposes financed by his mother.
The movie has had a very limited exposure in India but has seen good response in the United States where it was screened in New York and San Francisco before the Boston premiere.
As part of the question and answer session, some people wondered if Rangayan had considered releasing his movies via the Internet, to which he responded by saying that video-on-demand is certainly a promising option for smaller filmmakers.
Answering another question, he felt that the younger generation is more accepting of gay issues. Rangayan also said that the movie tries to show a cultural contrast between its chief characters, one a British-Asian, the other British, both of them from small-town Britain, to their experiences in small-town India. “I wanted to show their sense of marginalization and also some of the underlying similarities in their conditions,” he said.
One of the more notable characters in the movie was that of a wife of a gay man. She is shown helping Anna deal with his family life and his love for another man.
Rangayan, an engineer by training, has several documentary films on various social issues to his credit. He has also been associated with some feature films, like “Papeeha” directed by Sai Paranjape and “English, August” directed by Dev Benegal. He is a social activist and has been involved in gay and other gender issues for several years. His previous film on issues of sexual orientation, “The Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aina),” dealt with cross-dressing drag queens. But it was banned by the censor board in India, who felt it had too much of vulgarity. “They even said that I had not treated the theme with ‘understanding,’”he says.
In his future endeavors as part of seven movies dealing with gay issues that he calls the “Rainbow Series,” Rangayan wants to use the homoeroticism in Sufi poetry in his storyline. “That will introduce an element of lyricism in the theme,” he feels.
The audience seemed to appreciate the directness and the sensitivity with which gay issues were dealt with. “I felt it was a little over-sexualized, but it was a warm and touching depiction, nevertheless,” said Sarav Chithambaram of Cambridge, who is associated with the Massachusetts Area South Asian Lambda Association.
Published in India New England magazine, Boston; Issue Date: July 15 to 31, 2006
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