The lightness of being lesbian
Star columnist Devdutt Pattanaik, hotelier Keshav Suri, industrialist Radhika Piramal, Lotus Visual and Karim Ladak fund a short film that keeps dark struggle out of queer love
Doing away with the stereotypical narration of gay characters was always on the cards for Mumbai-based director Rohan Parashuram Kanawade. According to him, most mainstream movies victimise homosexual protagonists. Therefore, he wanted to do justice to those who newly identify and almost immediately accept their sexual preferences. And this is exactly what his new short film U Ushacha is about.
The 22-minute Marathi short is a subtle portrayal of sexual awakening. Usha, a single mother who earns her livelihood as a farm labourer in rural India, finds herself drawn to a female teacher of a local primary school. "I was sure while writing the script that I didn't want to show my protagonist struggling with her sexuality," says Kanawade. "Instead, I wanted it to be a nice, light film. At a young age, I found out I was attracted to boys and that I identified gay. Unlike how they show in movies, I never questioned myself for being different. I accepted the way I felt and that is exactly how Usha is in the movie. There are no villains in this movie, just Usha's ways of exploring her new attraction."
Rohan Parashuram Kanawade
Marathi actor Chhaya Kadam inspired Kanawade to make the film, and author and mid-day columnist Devdutt Pattanaik co-funded it with Keshav Suri, Radhika Piramal, Lotus Visual and Karim Ladak. "Chhaya approached me when I was working on the script of my first feature film. She loved it and asked me to write a script for her, in which she would play a lesbian character. Keeping her in mind, I wrote the story of U Ushacha. Later on, I realised there was a big age difference between Usha and her. So, we decided to replace her, and she was more than happy to support me. Devdutt, on the other hand, fell in love with the story when I read it to him in September last year. He agreed to partly fund it, and immediately, we did a recce and decided to shoot in Sawargaon, Nashik."
While the film was shot in three days, the post-production work concluded only two weeks ago. Kanawade is glad he picked Kiran Khoje, who has starred in Talvar, Hindi Medium and Hunterrr, to play Usha's role. "Kiran, who I have known for long, was excited to play a lesbian character, something she had never done before. Playing a farm labourer from the region wasn't much of a challenge for her as she is from Ahmednagar and is familiar with the dialect."
Khoje, too, was excited about taking up this role. The 32-year-old actress, who studied at the National School of Drama, Delhi, says, "Kanawade got in touch with me when Section 377 was struck down. The timing was perfect, and the script seemed refreshing.
The movie's protagonist doesn't know where her sexual preference is coming from, and portraying that in every scene was a little challenging. Forced into marriage to a man due to societal pressure, she was unaware about her feelings for long. Now, every time she sees the teacher, it brings a smile to her face. But she needs a reason to talk to her, so she turns to her to learn to read and write. In due process, she ends up being empowered. I couldn't have asked for a better character to play, and I am glad I signed up."
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