EXCLUSIVE: Swara Bhaskar and Divya Dutta to play queer partners on the screen
Faraz, who also directed India's first silent LGBTQIA + film, Sisak, describes the films as a gentle story, with a backdrop of religion and sexuality. Film festivals of the last two years with Sisak. I noticed that everyone talks about gay or bisexual men, but in reality nobody talked about women in the LGBTQIA + community. There are very few movies in the LGBTQIA + spectrum that speak of women as protagonists. Apart from that, nobody really talks about religion and sexuality, which I think is imperative, given the world we live in. I believe that religion, by default, becomes part of our sociopolitical understanding in the world we live in today, and I wanted to make a smooth story, with a backdrop of religion and sexuality.
The movie, which also stars. Surekha Sikri , traces the journey of a queer woman in search of a sense of belonging, an identity and acceptance of her family. The director says it was not easy to start this project. The first obstacle was to find a producer to finance the issue, since most of them wanted a film about LGBTQIA + male protagonists, instead of women. I was getting to many production studios in India, and they all had something to say: we're only watching movies that have a male lead. Humein mard chahiye, film ke liye and Aaj kal gay films kaafi cool hai, that's what they told me, he says. Even in the LGBTQIA + spectrum, they want the story to be masculine; They do not want stories of women to come out. They think they are being very progressive when they say that we are doing LGBTQIA + movies or we want to make LGBTQIA + movies, but the moment you say that the story is about two women, they will start to get discouraged.
Hypocrisy, says Faraz, is not limited to producers. Even actors and filmmakers are accomplices of Bollywood's homophobia. I know many leading actors in Bollywood, who have a lot of reservations when it comes to reproducing a sexuality that is not common. In a time when inclusiveness is a desideratum, Bollywood does not want to make LGBTQIA + films. It is like - they want to be inclusive, but they do not really want to be inclusive. If they make one, it is for the heck of it, says Faraz, adding, They are not making these from a genuine point of interest, but just to have a variety on their plate. The reason that Bollywood does not have a queer film on the main front is that there is a great amount of homophobia & transphobia in Bollywood. I remember when I was trying to make a feature film which had a Transgender protagonist. Initially, I was looking for trans-actors, but after almost six months, I did not find anyone. So I decided to find a cisgender man to play the role, but the kind of reactions I got from familiar actors was the following: 'Do I seem transient?' Or 'Do you think I'm a trans? I was surprised because these are some well-known actors in the industry who support the community. These were some of the great actors, who claim to be great supporters of independent films, but will not show up to represent a character in the community.
When asked about why he zeroed in on Swara & Divya as leads, Faraz told us, “Divya & Swara are two celebrated names in the industry & strong allies of the LGBTQIA+ community. It was an easy decision to approach them. In fact, when I started writing the film, I had Divya in my mind, & already saw her playing this role. The day I finished the script, I put up a status on Instagram saying I need someone to play the role, & Divya was actually the first person to call me. It was kind of bizarre that both of them were thinking on the same lines. Without even reading the script, she said she wanted to do the film. Swara is someone who is gentle & yet so powerful. There is a certain kind of vulnerability that she has that would win your heart. She is the perfect person to play the character. Both of them never had any reservations about playing a queer or lesbian character, which speaks volumes about who they are as individuals.”
Divya added she had ‘no reservations about taking up this role’ because of the the rapport she shares with him. “I have worked with him previously & I know what he has to offer,” she said, adding, “For me, this is not just a film. It’s a story about relationships – including this woman’s with her family & her partner, which is something that needs to be talked about amid all the taboo that exists in our society. I took up this role because I wanted to challenge myself as an actor & discover another side of me. I am in good hands, as I have Swara & Surekha ji as my co-actors, who are equally fabulous. I always wanted to share a screen with them. It is going to be lovely to bring in all the emotions of women who are in this & find a way to strike a balance in society.”
Faraz added that the filming of the film will be finished by December of this year.