July 3;Two Indian women at an elite social gathering in London meet and fall in love. When one of them wants to adopt a child, differences crop up leading to arguments and heartbreak. This is the premise of Reminiscence of Ether, a short fiction film that won the audience award for best short fiction film at the 5th Bangalore Queer film festival and was one of 19 films (out of 373) selected and screened at the 15th International Women’s Film festival in Seoul last month.
Quite an achievement for the all-women team, a bunch of Bangalore-based friends, Tanya, Sindra, Indu and Veena, who had no formal training or experience in film-making before. The girls were toying with script writing and decided to make a film to feature in the upcoming Bangalore queer film festival. Tanya Tyagi, a marketing professional who authored the film’s script says, “This film is essentially about relationships and the turns they take with life and growth; the queer factor was just a natural part of the story flow, the emphasis being on the relationships.”
Tanya and Sindra put in their money to produce the film while Veena Kulkarni, a freelance corporate trainer, directed the film as the friends felt she had the best holistic approach. She learnt the art of film- making by watching ‘You Tube’ videos and the effort seems to have paid off as she was nominated for Riyad Wadia award for Emerging Filmmaker at the Kashish Mumbai International Film Festival held in June.
Indu Anthony, a professional photographer who took charge of the cinematography says that it was a whole new experience for her but also a lot of fun. “For the first scene where one of the protagonists, Rukhsaar, appears sad and teary-eyed, I kept the actress awake all night to get the right mood and feel.”
Of the evocative title, Veena says the significance of the title becomes clear during the narrative. “Rukhsaar is at the crossroads of life and is being pulled into her past while carving a path into the future”.
Talks are on to release the 20-minute film at a multiplex, but it’s not an easy proposition. It may have a niche audience but Veena is confident that “people will watch, though we cannot expect them to pay much. As independent film-makers, we are not looking to make money.” Indu also believes that, “just as IPL gained popularity, short fiction films too are a growing trend and will be popular.”
While there has been a spurt of queer writing and films since the 2009 High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality, one wonders if there is a palpable change in attitude towards the LGBT community. Indu says: “there is a change, but not to extent where public display of affection is accepted.” Besides, in a country where talking about female sexuality is almost non-existent, even taboo, the task of portraying intimate scenes between gay women can be challenging. Tanya, who also plays one of the protagonists, was initially sceptical about the intimate scenes; “however it was handled well by the team and generated a positive response from the audience.”
Veena on the other hand says, “While shooting, it was just us and not a big deal. The scenes fit naturally in the story and being aesthetically choreographed, the audience received it well. Some film festivals, however, didn’t accept it because of that.”
So, what’s next? The team is currently focusing on showcasing the film at film festivals; it’s being screened at the San Francisco DesiQ film festival and in Chennai this month.