A couple of days ago I watched this lovely film that’s been around for some time, but hasn’t been talked about all that much. Sancharram (meaning “the journey”) is a 2004 movie that is perhaps the first of its kind. One might say that “Fire” was the first Indian movie to deal with sapphism, but in the movie the sisters-in-law were pushed into a lesbian relationship more out of loneliness than anything else.
Sancharram on the other hand gives no excuse for the actions of the protagonists. The movie is set in rural Kerala and focuses on the attitude of society towards homosexuality and how the romance is disrupted. Kiran & Delilah have been friends since childhood with Kiran having been in love with Delilah for a while. She’s not the only one though, as one of their classmates Rajan is also in love with her and asks Kiran to write letters to Delilah expressing his love for her. Kiran thinks of this as a way to express her feelings for Delilah without attracting society’s disapproval. When Delilah finds out that Kiran is the one writing the letters to her, she reciprocates her feelings & the two begin a secret relationship, in spite of Delilah’s initial worries.
Rajan however, finds the two sharing an intimate moment he is quick to tell Delilah’s mom who immediately arranges her marriage and prevents her from seeing Kiran, locking her up and stopping her from attending school. When her mother & other relatives continue to impress upon her the consequences of her actions, and her grandmother being her only support, Delilah’s guilt mounts. Kiran’s parents too are disapproving of what they refer to as unnatural love. In spite of her attempts to convince Delilah to run away with her, Delilah resists and resigns herself to marriage.
The ending to the movie is not entirely expected and while it isn’t what one might hope, it is plausible and positive. Sancharram isn’t as explicit as movies of its kind in the west, but it’s honest in its exploration of family dynamics and the cruel, uncaring attitude of society. The movie has English subtitles so don’t be deterred by the language.