Interview English

Needed an outlet for the stories within me, says actress Taranjit Kaur of her film Love Sex Soprano

Directed by Sreemoyee Bhattacharya, the short film is being screened as part of Canada's Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Filmmaker, actress and poet Taranjit Kaur's short film Love Sex Soprano is a journey of reclaiming things that are constantly taken from women, be it their innocence, their choice, their desires, or even their names.

The film features Taranjit Kaur as the protagonist as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery which becomes a story of conquest, power, happiness and love.

In addition to being the sole artiste in Love Sex Soprano, Taranjit has written and produced the short film. Directed by Sreemoyee Bhattacharya and shot by cinematographer Prashant Dandekar, it has been selected for the Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF), which is based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and is taking place online this year.

Speaking about the film, Taranjit Kaur said, “I wanted to bring forth a lot of women’s stories and issues related to women’s lives because I was working with a women’s theatre group before moving to Mumbai and I came across a lot of stories related to them.

"I thought there was a need to start talking about women’s desires because I think most of the relationships, especially when it comes to matrimony, are patriarchal — whether we talk about the financial set-up or the sexual chemistry between partners, it is always driven by a man. The result is that as a woman, you learn to fulfil a man’s desires without questioning them or even questioning your own self about what is it that you are looking for in a relationship.

"Most of the stories that are told in cinema are from a male gaze, so the understanding of a woman’s relationship has also been from that perspective, so there was need to give a female perspective to their relationships and their bodies. That’s how Love Sex Soprano was conceived.”

Taranjit travelled with the film to the Cannes festival last year to look for prospective co-producers to make a series on woman-centric stories. As the title suggests, the film focuses on the sexual emancipation of the protagonist. In a short span of eight minutes, we are taken through her thought process and evolution.

“For me, it’s very important to convey the full story of the protagonist of the film," the actress said. "So [in this film], when it begins, she has a very romantic idea of being in love with someone and a romantic idea of her own sexual needs, but when she actually meets the person, she goes through a very destructive relationship which was either patriarchal or about the man’s needs and desires, ignoring what the woman wanted.

"The realization at the end is that if you can learn to love your own self, you stop looking for love outside. So it’s very philosophical. I think the portrayal of women in cinema and on OTT platforms is from a male perspective where the woman is only used as an object for man’s desires. It’s time we got more women writers, producers, directors on board so that we tell women’s stories from a female perspective. That has been my journey, to collaborate with women in the industry.”

As an artiste and poet also, Taranjit finds herself drawn to women’s lives and their portrayal on screen where, according to her, they are not given the kind of space they deserve either in terms of content or form.

Commenting on the current crop of films and web-series, she said, “We still have a long journey [to make]. I have a problem with the way in which sexuality is being portrayed on OTT platforms. We have to portray it in an aesthetic way and not make it vulgar so you cannot watch it with your family, so that is where I think the gap is.”

A theatre artiste, Taranjit Kaur began her film career with the short Raju (2011), which won a Student Oscar. She then appeared in the critically acclaimed Ankhon Dekhi (2013) and was seen in several films thereafter like Airlift (2016), Saanjh (2017) and Murder On The Road To Kathmandu (2018).

Speaking of the freedom the short film format offers, she said, “It gives me the freedom to tell the story I want to tell from my own perspective or from what we have perceived as a team, without depending too much on the external producer. When you want to make a feature film, your budget is higher and you need another investor on board. But a short film gives leverage and freedom to a filmmaker to tell the stories we want to tell without an external person telling you what to make.”

Sharing her journey as an actress who made the transition from theatre to cinema, Taranjit Kaur said that while the journey has not been easy, she believes in finding different outlets to engage her creativity.

“It has been an interesting as well as tough journey," she said. "I have been doing theatre since I was 15 and knew that I enjoyed acting and there was no inclination towards cinema at that stage. But when I got my first film Raju, which won the Academy award, it did so well that I automatically started getting more films.

"But after Ankhon Dekhi, when I decided to move to Mumbai in 2014, the whole struggle period started. I was clueless whom to meet or approach and the work I got was stereotypical.

"Being from theatre, I wanted to challenge myself and portray different characters, so I had to wait to get the right films. But it takes time and it takes a toll on you as an actor. When you face 200 rejections in a year, it’s not easy, but at the end of the day, you tell yourself that you have to stand by the choices you [have made] and that’s the reason I got into poetry and making short films, because, as a creative person, I needed an outlet for the stories I was carrying within me.”

Taranjit has produced two more short films in the lockdown which are currently in post-production. In fact, the busy actress now needs a break because she has been working constantly the past six months. She will be shooting for a web-series for an OTT platform next and a feature film with Anuup Sonii, titled Kabir.

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