Early last year, a film that dealt with the theme of homosexuality Aligarh, created much unease. It’s a subject fearfully taken up in our cinema. Only a handful of Indian films have explored it sensitively enough to respect people from the LGBT community. Rest have only disserved the cause.
Recommended: NY Indian Film Festival 2016: Aligarh – Review
Lately, a Tamil indie film that explores a similar theme has caught the eye of circuit connoisseurs. My Son is Gay captures the emotional struggle of a mother coming to terms with her son’s homosexuality. Flickside spoke to the man behind the film Lokesh Kumar, as he awaits its North American premiere at the 29th Annual New York LGBT Film Festival. The Chennai-based director tells us what motivated him to tell this story, what it’s like to be an independent filmmaker in India and more!
How did the idea of the film come about?
It happened when I attended the Bangalore Queer Film Festival. That somewhere inspired me to make this film. There isn’t a single feature film in 100 years of Tamil cinema which is fully about the gay community, their struggles in the society. There were films, some of which showed the LGBT community in bits and pieces, but many that mocked them. I wanted to do a film that showed the reality. I met people from different walks of life, heard their stories, experiences and made My Son is Gay, which is based on many true events.
Many actors/technicians/producers were worried about their image, as this is a gay film.
How difficult was it to make a film on this theme? Did you have trouble finding the cast, funding etc?
It is ofcourse very tough. People laugh at you, judge you, mock you, gossip, do everything they can. Because, to many, the idea seems either funny or unnecessary. But as a filmmaker, I make films based on various social issues which I think are very important for the society. So I chose to ignore the discouraging voices. Be it casting or funding, everything is tough when comes to this theme, especially in the south where LGBT issues are still very much a taboo.
Many actors/technicians/producers were worried about their image, as this is a gay film. But I was fortunate to have found great producers like Anil Saxena (co-producer) and Cyril D’souza (associate producer) who understood the importance and necessity of this film. I completed this film mainly because of their support and motivation. Also my actors like Anupama Kumar, JP, Kishore, Sriranjini, Ashwinjith, Abhishek, Maya, Sharukh, Sowmith, Eswari, Sharath, Jayashree Nair understood my vision and supported me by playing their part well. Many actors worked without even worrying about their salary.
The experience you gain as an indie filmmaker is something no film school or a commercial film set can teach you.
Was the film delayed because of the funding?
The film got delayed because I tried to make it in Hindi first, thinking cracking the Tamil market would’ve been tough. I wasn’t sure how the film would be received. There wasn’t any full-length gay film made with seasoned actors in the Tamil Industry. So, I tried making it in Hindi. But the funding wasn’t enough and it’s very tough to make a Hindi film being in the South. That led to the project being on hold for almost two years. Realizing I didn’t want to waste any more time, I discussed with my sound designer about making the film in Tamil language itself. He supported me and we immediately kicked off again last year. We completed the film early this year.
How challenging is it to be an independent filmmaker in India?
Being an independent filmmaker is very tough. You take care of everything from start to finish. We’ve to be involved in all aspects of filmmaking because we are very stubborn in our craft. We don’t allow anyone to influence us in what we want to do. We look at the big international market and not just the limited audience of state. So, we’ve to work extra hard to deliver content which should cross borders. That’s when we get our recognition, which will help us in our business.
Never worry too much about any rules in filmmaking. Break the rules or modify them according to you.
We have several restrictions, as our funding is basically very less compared to a commercial film. We need to do everything within our budget and still deliver a great quality product. There isn’t much support or guidance for indie filmmakers in the Tamil industry. So, we make many mistakes, learn, redo things, run for ourselves and have to tackle all old school rules and restrictions in the industry.
What lessons did you come out with from My Son is Gay?
Make one feature film as an indie filmmaker and you will understand everything about filmmaking. What you learn as an indie filmmaker is something no film school or a commercial film set can teach you. This is a very unique experience which will transform you completely. Also, what I believe and have learnt is never worry too much about any rules in filmmaking. Break the rules or modify them according to you and make what you want to showcase to your audience. That is why we are independent filmmakers, isn’t it? Believe in your film, believe in film festivals and you’ll find a way out to turn your little indie film into a successful business as well.
How soon do you expect it to see a commercial release?
The film is with the CBFC now. We hope to see a theatrical release by next year.
Is another film on the way?
My next project is an action thriller, which I am writing at present.
My Son is Gay film is an official selection at the 29th Annual New York LGBT Film Festival and premieres in North America on October 23, 2017.
Recommended: 11 Indian Indie Movies We Can’t Wait To See In 2017