Hits and Misses of India’s First LGBTQ Silent Film, ‘Sisak’

Faraz Ansari’s ‘Sisak’ manages to get across an important message to its audience, but is that enough?

3 min read
Faraz Ansari’s short film has been selected for more than 20 international film festivals.

Two people take a Mumbai local every day together, but never say a word. Were this a Bollywood film, song and dance might ensue in a proud and lengthy courtship... but this isn't Bollywood, and they're not your traditional 'two people'.

This is the plot of Faraz Ansari’s short film, Sisak, which ran three back-to-back sold out shows in Delhi. After winning 7 best film awards at various international film festivals, this gay-love-that-could-not-be film premiered in Delhi last week.

The film is about two men who meet each other in a local train, night after night, and fall in love. However, because of their sexuality, they are unable to speak a word to each other.

It has a few interesting themes: There is no dialogue and it is shot entirely inside the Mumbai local. It has an intense build-up between the two leads that kept most in the audience at the edge of their seats.

The reason why it is a silent film is because the whole project is driven to a deliver a message – the painful disquiet around homosexuality. The message of the film is personal to writer and director Faraz Ansari, and he wants to take it far and wide.

Wide Release a Tough Row to Hoe

At a time when the censor board is tightening a hard noose around freedom of expression, films that talk about sexuality invariably find themselves under the blade. Wide release for a film like Ansari’s, therefore, is a distant dream.

Moreover, Ansari feels that sometimes censorship is not the only challenge. When it comes to watching two men get intimate on screen, the audience can get a bit uncomfortable.

This is perhaps the reason why films like Sisak remain confined to film festivals. Felix Suganthan, who organises Chennai's international queer film festival called Reel Desires, says that it is important to have public platforms that can "shape perception of the queer community at large".

However, the need of the hour is to engage a non-queer audience so that people can appreciate what is common through different sections of people.
Felix Suganthan
The latest edition of Reel Desires is coming to Chennai 28 July 2017 onwards. 
The latest edition of Reel Desires is coming to Chennai 28 July 2017 onwards. 
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Reel Desires)

Is There a Middle Ground?

One way to get more people to the theatre to watch a "gay film" can be, perhaps, to put the issues and the politics of it on the backburner.

“Every time somebody writes a movie or a play about gay people, they don’t have to make it a conscious statement,” says Anirudh Nair, who played a young gay man in award-winning play Still and Still Moving.

If you can catch the audience unaware and give them a story they can relate to – as queer people or as heterosexual people – acceptability becomes a natural fallout of your work. By making overt statements, we end up highlighting the demarcation and marginalisation, rather than normalising the other.
Anirudh Nair, Actor
Anirudh Nair (R) along with his co-star Adil in ‘Still and Still Moving’.
Anirudh Nair (R) along with his co-star Adil in ‘Still and Still Moving’.
(Photo Courtesy: Tadpole Repertory)

This is perhaps something Sisak fails to do. While it brings forth an important issue and makes a valid statement – by no measure an easy task – its emphasis on the immediate politics stops it from going beyond a niche audience. India’s first LGBTQ silent film could’ve tried to achieve more.

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