National Award winner Sridhar Rangayan is an openly gay filmmaker who has been at the forefront of India’s battle for equal rights for the last 20 years. He has tirelessly worked, campaigned, and spoken for gay rights; while his films have become mainstays of queer Indian cinema. But in his latest venture–Evening Shadows–he aims to step away from this tag of ‘gay films’ to a story that talks to a larger audience, as he tells us, about love, acceptance and the generational conflict.
Following several seminal films, Evening Shadows takes a different perspective, that of a mother and chooses to explore the relationship between a mother, Vasudha, and her homosexual son, Kartik, in a small Indian town. What we get to witness is the unfolding of a mother’s psyche, in regards to her son’s coming out, his sexuality, but more importantly, her self-exploration as a woman in a traditional, patriarchal society. But all of this is yet to come as Mr. Rangayan is currently trying to raise money to bring this film to life through a Wishberry campaign that ends on Sunday, November 27.
“The film portrays the universal angst between generations. We have many films that talk about the angst of coming out, the LGBTQI youth and their comfort with their own sexuality. I want to make a film about the parents, and it’s usually our mothers we come out to first,” he continues. “When we come out to our parents, what happens is that we tend to push them in a closet, while we step out of our own. When a young LGBTQI person comes out to their near and dear ones, they feel liberated and free, but someone like a mother doesn’t have anybody to share this with. So this film is about family and friction between tradition and the contemporary, and how to talk about a parent’s feelings. This film has a larger interest for a larger audience and it might open a space for dialogue.”
How is ‘Evening Shadows’ different from your previous films?
“We have not dealt with such a story before. I have made films on trans identity, HIV, desire, but this has a more broader appeal. The approach is gentle, there is no restriction on the angle we take or the freedom with creativity we can have. We want women, housewives from small towns also, to see and grasp the message of the film. This is a not a sad or preachy movie, it is a beautiful story about people with a universal message and this time we want to reach out to more people and to a larger audience base.”
The film’s story is definitely one that many people will be able to relate to. What has been the biggest challenge so far, other than finances and crowdfunding?
“Frankly, the biggest challenge for this film, other than finance, in India is subject wise — niche. Some producers and distributors think it’s a niche film and are apprehensive to pick it up. We have been fortunate enough to find a good cast and people are willing to take up challenging roles. It is easier to make it now after close to seven years of it being written and we are finding more support, financially and societally, and believe that we need a film now. A lot of people have reached out to us with their support online and on social media which we didn’t have back then, people are looking forward to it now.
We are also trying to kickstart a parent support group along with the film and it’ll not be like an acceptance meet instead would look at channelling a singular voice. The group will have discussions amongst themselves; to strategize, deal with it and create a support system for themselves and others. The time is now to bring parents and allies out from the closet and that’ll be a challenge, not just for the film. Ten per cent of the crowdfunding will be utilised to support this group where parents can run it by themselves.”
What is the biggest challenge a child faces when coming out to a parent, and vice versa, for the parent.
“For LGBTQI youth to come out, first have to come out to themselves, look in the mirror and accept it. I realised this when I was 26, to look in the mirror and say this is my identity. Once you have come out to the mirror, then it’s to the immediate circle, people feel closely to their mom or dad and want to share, but first youngsters have to be comfortable with themselves, that’s a challenge.
When they speak to their parents two things tend to happen – it’s the parents questions; ‘am I to blame for this?’ Second is very interesting actually; ‘why didn’t you tell me this before?’ ‘Didn’t you trust or love me enough? I would have accepted it ten years ago also.’ You explain it in the language they understand, hand-hold your parent in an attempt to understand you.
The message in this film is the hand-holding process for both child and parent, as they walk the journey together with true love. It cannot be from confrontation, radically political, a lot of people disagree with this, but I say it’s a very personal thing. It becomes a political event de facto and I don’t see the politics of the sexuality, it’s very personal. When I talk to my mother it’s not political, it is a very personal act.
“I feel people do not have enough access to such films in the star-oriented system of bollywood in India. Good films do exist and the internet has provided access in the form of short films, web series and more. Theatrical releases for such films and their commercial viability are still stuck in a quagmire. Earlier we had Akashvani theatre to showcase films which is not the case now. I am interested in finding such venues, creating an alternate revenue model for these films and find a distribution channel. With the censor board changeover with help from the Shyam Benegal Tribunal, the films that received the A certificate which limited their transmission will not be an obstacle anymore, this move comes at a right time for us.” What’s amazing is the number of parents of LGBTQI youth that have come out in support to fund this film on “parental acceptance and awareness.” One such parent is Aruna Desai who speaking to Huffpost India said, “As a mother of a gay child, I relate quite a bit to the story of Evening Shadows. “I think the movie will really help a lot of parents come to terms with their child’s sexuality, understand them better and understand what they go through.”
Speakig to Mr. Rangayan helped us understand the need and importance of such a film that needs to be made and viewed by the Indian audience. Evening Shadows really does hold an important message, a perspective that addresses the flip side of the LGBTQI struggle, that of the parents who after years of being conditioned to think of anything deviating from heteronormative societys norms as ‘deviant’ and ‘unnatural’ try and change their own perception and understanding, as more and more people (finally) come out of the closet, loud and proud, in Indian society.
Click here to donate, support and share Sridhar Rangayan’s crowdfunding campaign for ‘Evening Shadows’
Interviewed by Preksha Malu
Words: Sara Hussain