My Son Is Gay, a film that has done the festival circuit around the world, will soon release in the country
If there’s something that Lokesh Kumar, director of My Son Is Gay, had come to realise, it is the non-portrayal of the LGBTQ community on screen; the representations thus far, in regional cinema at least, have been truly terrible. But, My Son Is Gay just cannot be compared with the lot, for it not only tells the tale of a mother and son who are unable to come to terms with the latter’s sexuality, but also aims to educate the masses in a largely heteronormative society.
Silverscreen catches up with the team of My Son Is Gay – from the director and actors to the editor and cinematographer – and documents their individual sentiments about the film.
Lokesh and his team of technicians arrive well before the actors. Huddled around a tiny round table, they are not ready to talk just yet, but agree to converse over a cup of coffee.
Seated around are Lokesh (director), Dani Charles (editor), Divyank (still photographer), Santhan Anebajagane (music composer), Rathina Kumar (cinematographer), and Afsal (line producer). Brief introductions later, I watch the yet-to-be released trailer.
My Son Is Gay tells the tale of a mother who is unable to come to terms with the fact that her son is gay. Her son too, grapples with his sexual identity. Two boys find love in each other’s company, much to the mother’s growing apprehension.
While the trailer is clear about the movie’s aims, Lokesh declares that it’s up to the audience to arrive at a conclusion. “There hasn’t been a single Tamil film talking about homosexuality like what we’ve done, where it’s as straightforward as the title itself,” he says, adding that the film doesn’t tread the preachy path, but instead, includes points of view from various characters. “I did have education in mind while making this film. But, we aren’t taking a stand here. All characters are presented with their opinions; we’re just showing the reality.”
Lokesh, a mechanical engineer, took to filmmaking a few years ago when he realised ‘it was now or never’. Filmmaking, he says, is something he thoroughly enjoys. My Son Is Gay is his first feature film, and it was admittedly tough for him to find actors, largely because of the subject and budget constraints. That’s when producers Anil Saxena and Cyril D’souza stepped in. “They really helped us and came on board bearing good cinema in mind,” Lokesh says.
The film, by the look of the trailer, is heavy on emotion, but also captures the good times between family and friends. The music, by Santhan, adds to the feel of the film. Seated in a corner, composer Santhan is rather humble about his works until Lokesh eggs him on.
A veteran of sorts, considering he has 400 short films to his credit, Santhan distinguishes between working on a short film and a feature length one. “It was challenging considering the budget was just a fraction of the industry norm. So there were compromises; I had to make music with a software. But the highlight would have to be the sarangi, played by Manonmani, one of the two sarangi players in the city,” he says.
Bagpipes and Irish flute are included too, but all enhanced through music software.
Apart from My Son Is Gay, Santhan has another feature film in the pipeline.
MSIG marks cinematographer Rathina Kumar’s first feature film, but he says that he was always interested in direction.
Having known Lokesh for a while, Rathina Kumar met him first for a photoshoot, and then worked with him on a pilot film called Irul. For MSIG, the team had to work on a tight schedule in addition to budget constraints. There were times when Lokesh and Rathina had a difference of opinion over shots.
“Cinematographers like working either early in the morning or late at night for proper light. When the cameraman and the director sit and schedule the shoot, it’s called Shot Division. They plan the shots, and every shot has meaning and brings a different mood to the story. In our case, we shot in the afternoon at 12 PM. Few bits were also made on the spot. We would plan something and execute something else,” recollects Lokesh.
Rathina has another feature film in the pipeline titled Bodhai, a small commercial one.
Editing a video is no easy feat. Dani Charles, the editor, has had to endure several sleepless nights to work on the film. As his day job is that of a celebrity photographer for Silverscreen, Dani’s days when working on the film were all about clicking photos by day, and editing videos by night. With lots of coffee and cigarettes in between.
“Many a time, little edits had to be made. Also, it needed to be edited differently for film fests. I remember even working on my birthday last year!”
Dani is working with Lokesh on another independent project, and a Malayalam film.
MSIG has a fairly young team, with most of them still in college or recent graduates. Line-producer Afsal is one of them. Having known Lokesh for a while, Afsal was interested in acting, given his stint in several short films. However, he had his public exams then and came on board as line-producer. He recollects a lot of warm memories.
“We used to travel to Kerala by a rickety bus with tons of equipment. And then, we’d have to walk with the equipment at least for two kilometres to get to the spot. Since we were shooting at a secluded place in Kerala, we’d often find scorpions around,” he reminisces.
For Divyank, the still photographer, it was more about the experience. Photography was always a passion, even when he was in school. Currently in college, he had to take several holidays to allot enough time for the project. But, like he says, it was all worth it.
The film’s poster too, has garnered a huge response on social media. Made by Venky, currently in his first year of college, the poster conveys just as much as a trailer would. It’s no surprise that Venky had even designed the poster of actor Vikram’s upcoming film Sketch.
The actors – Ashwinjith, Anupama Kumar, and Abhishek Joseph George – wait at another table, animatedly chatting away. Turns out, the team last met months ago and they all had a bit of catching up to do.
Ashwinjith, the protagonist, is a recent college graduate. While he was interested in acting, his parents were initially apprehensive about this. He learnt about the film via social media and auditioned for it. “After my audition, the director told me that I might get the role but nothing was confirmed,” he says.
Lokesh smiles. “His audition was pretty good. It was the scene where he was with the psychiatrist. While many actors weren’t too confident or were apprehensive about playing the role, he agreed and did a good job,” he says.
Speaking about his character Varun, Ashwinjith calls him a “typical mama’s boy”. “ I’d always wanted to do a role that stays. So, getting this kind of a role in my first movie is huge.”
Abhishek Joseph George plays Karthik, a free-spirited gay boy in love with Varun. While to some people the film might be educative or even informative, to Abhishek, it’s a love story. “I just thought of how a person would react when in love; I channeled that irrespective of gender. From Karthik’s point of view, it’s just Varun and his love. Otherwise, he needed to be isolated where his world revolves around a few [other] characters. When you see, it’s a nice, intimate setting in itself.”
Abhishek has worked in films such as Demonte Colony, Adhe Kangal, and the popular web-series As I’m Suffering From Kaadhal. But, he was chosen by Lokesh and Anupama solely for his work in the play Chillu. On choosing this project, Abhishek says, “We met at a park and he [Lokesh] narrated the script to me there. Very unconventional especially when you’d expect going to an office and seeing people working around, there’s collateral in that. But he had so much conviction in the story, he knew the story inside-out and was very upfront about it. I had my own apprehensions. I was being a diva and he took all that,” he smiles.
Anupama Kumar, who plays the mother in the film, has been thanked the most, I notice. Reason? “As you could see, we are a young team and she really helped manage things. Initially, she was on board as an actor but then she started helping with the story, the character development, the costumes, and we even used her home as an office. She multi-tasked through out,” Lokesh says.
Playing Lakshmi was emotionally draining, but Anupama looked at it as a ‘parenting issue’ given that she’s a parent herself.
“As actors, there comes a point when you feel inadequate, so dissatisfied and want to be a part of a story that needs to be told. Here is a story that can make a potential difference in lives. I have lots of friends who are gay and it was very important for me to tell this story from a personal point of view, being a parent myself. Lokesh helped with a lot of material. Since college I’ve had friends who are gay and I feel their anguish,” she says.
“When playing Lakshmi, I put myself in a scenario that I may have to potentially face as a parent: my son telling me that he’s gay. How am I going to deal with it. It’s as simple as that, when you look at it as though your child is not doing the “right” thing.”
Currently, the team foresees an ‘A’ certificate from the censor board. “We would be surprised if we didn’t get an ‘A’ certificate! But seriously, it’s a clean film. I’ve shown it to my 12-year-old son and he reacted to it as a child would react to something in which a mother rejects her son. ‘A’ is something we don’t want, but there’s a perception that with that rating, there will be adult content,” says Anupama.
The film has been touring film festivals, the latest being its premiere at New York’s LGBT Film Fest (New Fest) on October 23. The film was showcased at various other film festivals, too. Bearing that in mind, there’s one thing the team is looking forward to: “The film’s release, as soon as possible. Most of us haven’t watched it and we’re dying to show it to others!”
The film also stars Kabaali actor Kishore as Lakshmi’s brother, veteran actor Jayaprakash as a psychiatrist. Rekhs has done the subtitles.
Dani Charles, who is associated with My Son Is Gay, is an employee of Silverscreen.