For our relaunch we couldn’t have wished for a better celebrity to feature than film director Onirban Dhar, better known as Onir. A man whose creativity sparks without the help of Kanta Bhens, bogus Dostanas or commercial caricatures. His films portray real lives, harsh realities and everything that falls in between.
And before we begin, the Gaysi gang would like to thank Onir for this interview and more so for giving us gut-wrenching films like My Brother Nikhil & I am Omar.
Why begin your career with a risky subject like My Brother Nikhil?
MY BROTHER NIKHIL was my fifth script which became my first film. Somehow each of the scripts I was writing did not seem main stream enough for the traditional producers. When I narrated the concept to Sanjay Suri he was immediately excited and he asked me to start writing the script for MY BROTHER NIKHIL, saying worse comes to worse we will make it as a DV film.
I think it was not the risk factor that motivated me. It was a story that haunted me and I felt as a film maker I would like to tell this story. The commerce of a film does not motivate me. My growth as a human being thru my film is important for me.
In a time where most film directors want to be associated with big production houses, you chose to stick with your close friend (and Producer) Sanjay Suri. Reason?
I feel very often with big production houses a director loses his identity. I feel I have a very small identity of I own in this industry but it’s my own and I treasure it. Sanjay Suri and I became friends because we realised that we have a similar vision for the kind of films we wanted to be associated with. That is why we opened a company together and make films independently.
As a director I value my creative space and this allows me that. For me it’s not important to make a big film….it’s important to make the film i believe in and enjoy making.
Do you think that with the decriminalization of 377, the depiction of homosexuality in Hindi films will see a change?
Well I hope so. But it’s not just the law it’s the society that has to change. Unfortunately most of our filmmakers do not want to be the instrument of change. They rather reflect what society wants to see. So change will happen but will take time.
Your opinion on the Censorship Board with respect to their approach towards films centred on Queer themes, or sexuality for that matter.
Well I am hoping with the High court judgement their attitude also changes. But I think we are rather prudish about sex. Sometimes it amazes me that how can we be so naive. Sex is a positive energy (when done with consent). So why are we threatened at the audience watching sex scenes and not at violence. Our society is increasingly becoming a violent society and I think the depiction of violence is what should worry us. A Gajjani gets a U/A. so do we rather see our kids experience violence than a kiss?
Tell us about your forthcoming film “I Am”.
I am is a film with four stories set in four cities and interlinked by characters. The film represents the dilemma and conflicts of modern Indian society. It depicts people with fractured lives who still have unbroken dreams.
Talking about “I am Omar”, what made you select Rahul Bose for the Gay man’s role? Is it because he required least convincing since he is open to Parallel cinema in comparison to other actors who fear social taboo associated with the theme?
Well I knew Rahul as an intelligent actor would be more open to doing a role like this…. and half an hour after I gave him the script he called and told me ” this is going to cause an uproar…are you ready for it?” I answered “Yes”…. and he said “if you are convinced and ready I am on”. For me it was very important to have a credible actor for this role because the audience accepts them more easily.
Since IPC 377 has been now decriminalized, how relevant is “I Am Omar”?
“I AM OMAR” covers the before and after of Delhi hi court judgement. Secondly many people still do not know what IPC 377 meant for the homosexual community. Since it’s still debated on Supreme Court I think it’s an important film. Moreover it’s important to know the past to value the present. I AM OMAR does not only talk about the misuse of IPC 377 but also of the social stigma at large.
Most social-issue based films talk in lengths about the problem at hand but very few provide a solution/s. Do “I Am” stories make an attempt?
I think solutions are not so simple. And the first step towards it is to raise questions, start debates. I AM films do not provide solutions. It is meant to raise question and debate. Dialogue is important in an area of silence.
Selling movie credits (“I Am”) is an innovative marketing strategy. How did it come about?
I have been trying to make each of these films for a while now. When we were finding it difficult to get finance Sanjay Suri came up with the idea that I should write them as short stories and link them and we could look for separate partners. That’s when I thought to open up the whole process on the facebook. Why not involve as many people as possible. So I offered the possibility for people to either become investor or just contribute between Rs 1000 and 25000 and become a CO-OWNER and get credits. It was an experiment and worked. In less than a month I could start shooting the first story. This is for me not only a way of raising finance but also creating an active audience while a film is getting made. In a way it democratises cinema.
Many consider film Dostana to be iconic. Your thoughts?
Well if it’s good to perceive a community as something to be ridiculed at and laughed, maybe it’s good! The only two “real” gay characters of Boman and the white Immigration officers and both were over the top Gay characters. Maybe the nation knows the word Gay because the film went to the masses. But I wonder in a country where its normal for guys to hold hands and be very physical don’t the same gestures become something to be laughed at as its perceived as “Gay” and many become much more conscious.
What definitely worked for me was the mother accepting them as a couple.
Do you think gay celebrities are morally liable to step out of the closet?
No I think everyone has the right to their privacy. It is totally up to them if they want to discuss their private lives. But I think it is important for ALL celebrities (GAY or not) to voice their support for human rights issues and not feel threatened about their personal identities being questioned.
Ever wish to make a big bad Hindi masala film?
And with that much emphasised “no” we too can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that in the world of Hindi cinema where box office returns and the need for constant limelight top the priority list, we have a film maker with his mind and heart in the right place. Here’s wishing him the best of best.