Interview

Queer community's response has been very positive: LOEV director Sudhanshu Saria


The debutant director talks about making a film on same-sex relationship in a country which is starved of queer content.

IANS

Sudhanshu Saria's same-sex love story LOEV is a clutter-breaker on several counts. Not only has the debutant director dared a same-sex relationship in a country where homosexuality is still illegal, he took the film straight to Netflix rather than try to find conventional distribution channels into theatres for his film.

Excerpts from an interview: 

How difficult has it been for you to put together this project?

In a way it was very, very difficult and yet it's been an absolute cakewalk when I compare it to how difficult I thought it would be. Having been a producer myself, I knew the economics of this project where and how unlikely finding financing would be. And since the rest of the process is really dictated by how much money one is able to find, it was just obvious to me. I had to either not make it or be prepared for a brutal, brutal journey. 

Mumbai actually ended up being surprisingly kind to me. Why actors and producers and crew members trusted a first time director like me with a subject like this, I'll never know. 

LOEV is ostensibly about a road trip. But the film goes into many complex issues regarding sexual orientation. Tell us about your personal impulses that motivated this audacious script?

I just knew how impossible making this film would be so I just allowed myself to be fearless and literally just leapt off the cliff. I didn't want to hold back. Life is actually quite complex so if you simply follow its beats and allow yourself to really dig in and really follow the character's truest impulses, the script will just show you the way. It's when we start to design some kind of an experience for our audience that films become ordinary. So that's all I did I guess. It helped that I had actually been in these situations so I had a jumping off point...The gender of the characters was the least important part of this and, in some way, the audience gets that too. We hear that in screenings over and over again where people don't find it to be a gay story per se. It's honestly just a love story where the characters happen to be men. And that's quite radical to me in the context of queer cinema.

How tough was it shooting the kissing scenes? One can see Shiv and Dhruv not holding back. This is the opposite of a peck.

We never discussed it. Honestly. I worked much, much harder on getting them into the personalities and backstories of these characters. The kiss was the least important part of it to me. In fact, I'm glad they didn't ask me for direction on that because I would probably have just been deeply disappointed. It's a kiss. It's JUST a kiss. And it's bigoted to even think about it in any other way just because there's a man on the other end of it.

The LGBT community is apparently unhappy as they don't find your film 'gay' enough?

I disagree with that characterisation. The response from the queer community has been overwhelmingly positive. I can't even count the number of messages I received from people just based on the trailer alone. These weren't people who had seen the movie as they were just so starved of any queer content that portrayed their lives in a dignified manner that they couldn't help reaching out. Yes, occasionally, I did have two festival directors who curate queer festivals tell me that but I honestly just laughed. 

What sort of an audience are you hoping it would get?

The passionate sort. I've had audience members come up and yell at me, insult me even at festivals and I've had grown men hold on to me and sob. I really cherish it all. The whole idea was to push some buttons and get some discussions going. I'd rather be on five people's all time top ten list than be the film that everybody kinda sorta liked.

Your comments on Article 377?

It's despicable and it's an attack on every citizen's right to live and love but everyone seems to be okay with it because it's supposed to be symbolic. If symbols didn't matter, we wouldn't be subjected to a national anthem before movies. Symbols matter, and this one pretty much endorses bigotry and bullying. That said, given a chance, I would much rather work towards the attitude shift that needs to occur in our families and in our societies. Most of us don't really experience the legal ramifications of 377 as most of us are more bothered by the lack of acceptance we receive in our immediate environments.

- Interview by Subhash K Jha