There are inspiring individuals all around us, but Sridhar Rangayan’s story is particularly incredible. From being part of India’s first LGBTQ+ magazine Bombay Dost to co-founding India’s first gay NGO The Humsafar Trust, and from making independent films on social issues like hearing impairment, HIV, and gay rights to receiving the National Award from the President for the film Breaking Free — he has garnered a lot of respect for his work.
His latest project Evening Shadows premiered at the Bengaluru International Film Festival on March 1.
In an interview with indibeat, Sridhar spoke about his films and his vision for a more egalitarian society.
IB: Evening Shadows released with a U/A rating. Do you think this emboldens filmmakers to tell more LGBTQ themed stories?
The U/A certificate for Evening Shadows is a landmark decision that supports not only LGBTQ films but also independent cinema that is sensitively made around a controversial theme.
The censor board is progressive, but they are constrained by a rule book that is antiquated. I am glad they gave me a hearing and agreed that my request was justified, since the film is about a gay son coming out, and nothing in the film is stereotypical or sensational. It is a slice-of-life story that touches hearts.
But let it not be taken for granted that from now on all LGBTQ films will get a U or UA certification. For that, the censor rule book has to change — not only about homosexuality, but also about several issues that are in tune with contemporary society and today’s generation.
IB: What are some of the challenges you face given the themes of your movies?
Due to the current legal and social stand on LGBTQ rights, it is very challenging to find producers to back your films.
Secondly, not many mainstream actors are willing to take the risk, and the distribution system still sees these films as niche and commercial write-offs. This has to change, the way it has changed for women-centric films.
But we are hopeful. Evening Shadows is a women-centric film, where the story of the mother is as pivotal as that of the son. The film will appeal to every woman — not necessarily only parents of LGBTQ children. This was clear from the overwhelming reception it received at its world premiere in Sydney on Feb 25.
IB: What’s your take on the current LGBTQ situation in the country, both from a social and legal perspective?
India is a country living in the 16th and 21st century at the same time. A lot has changed in the metro cities, but elsewhere, there is still not much awareness, and little acceptance.
Both colonisation and patriarchy are the demons that destroyed diversity of gender and sexual expressions, which was part of the rich Indian heritage.
While Sec 377 definitely is a deterrent, it is the dogmatic social viewpoints that are greater barriers in moving towards an accepting environment.
Perhaps the first step is to create positive attitudes within families. That’s what we are trying to do with Evening Shadows, which we hope will receive a wide theatrical and satellite release.
As part of the film’s outreach we’ve also created a parent support group — Sweekar: The Rainbow Parents. This group of about 25 parents of LGBTQ children has had workshops and walked as a group at the Mumbai Pride March.
IB: What more can be done to raise awareness about and to normalise the way the LGBTQ community is viewed in this country?
Apart from speaking to families and other stakeholders, it is important to start a movement among the youth.
It’s already there; the youth is more aware, more accepting — but both LGBTQ youth and their allies should campaign vociferously to change the law and the society’s attitudes: not only on social media and online platforms, but also on ground level.
The youth is a huge force and I am confident it will bring in the change soon.
Image Credit: Sridhar Rangayan