[Editor’s Note : Thank you organisers of Reel Desires 2013 (Chennai) for giving us the opportunity of interviewing one of their guests, film-maker Lokesh. And we are grateful to the folks at Orinam for helping us with the Tamil to English translation of this interview.]
Q. Before we discuss not one but two of your films that are being screened at the Chennai Reel Festival, please tell our readers a little about yourself.
I am Lokesh, an independent filmmaker with a passion for acting, writing and direction. I was born and raised in Chennai, and hail from a middle-class family background. I completed a diploma in mechanical engineering to please my parents, then worked for a few years in the BPO industry to earn money. For the past eight months I have been living for myself, i.e. working full-time in film, where my passion lies.
It is definitely difficult to make independent cinema without any support or backing. While it is tough to earn money this way, the alternative is to earn money by working in a field that I do not like. The latter would be tantamount to deceiving myself, and I don’t want to do that: I’d rather undergo travails while doing something I enjoy.
Q. You are a writer, director and an actor; was your inclination towards films from an early age? And what drove you to take up this art form?
Growing up, I never tired of watching TV and cinema. These kept fueling my interest in entertainment and the arts, and influenced and inspired me to take up film. In my opinion, cinema is a powerful medium, with the potential to make audiences grasp complex realities of life. I desire to address, through my films, many of the daily truths that matter to me. In fact, this desire is what motivated me to enter film in the first place.
Q. Your film “You are my brother” deals with un-expected coming out of younger sibling to his her elder brother. What according to you is special about this film?
I made this film specifically for LGBT audiences. When we are constantly bombarded with stories that have unhappy endings, I wanted to strike a note of hope, of optimism. Many audience members from the mainstream viewed it at the film festival. They complimented me on the film, and on my efforts to openly depict the intimacies that are an integral part of life. I have portrayed a straight man accept his younger brother, who is gay. The key message is one of acceptance, and of optimism that many of the problems plaguing LGBT people would be resolved if we had such acceptance in our families. Incidentally, my film is the first (to my knowledge) in 100 years of Tamil cinema, to portray scenes of kissing and intimacy between two men.
Q. What other kind of issues has your work touched open?
Suicide is a sad but undeniable fact of human existence, and suicides among LGBT youth are being increasingly reported. My other short film, ‘Wait a Minute’ is intended to be a public service message to make those of us LGBT people who harbour suicidal thoughts reconsider acting on them.
Q. What kind of response are you hoping for from the audience at Reel Desires (Chennai International Queer Film Festival)?
Both films were made on a zero-budget, which necessitated many compromises. I am fully aware that the quality could have been significantly better, with more resources. However, I think of these shorts as beginnings and as experimental in nature. Hence, I am pleased with comments from viewers, whatever they may be. I am confident that Chennai audiences will appreciate such bold initiatives from independent filmmakers such as myself, as these are unprecedented in Tamil cinema.
Q. What kind of films appeals the most to you, and any Indian film personalities do you look up to for inspiration?
I have always been attracted by films that conveyed a sense of authenticity that tackled societal issues, and were influential enough to transform mindsets. Filmmakers such as James Cameron, Satyajit Ray, and Kamal Haasan are among my big inspirations. Directors Bala and Balaji Sakthivel are those in Tamil film industry whose work I admire.
Q. Any new film projects in the pipeline?
I have many projects lined up. I’ve decided not to restrict myself to LGBT themes but make films that address other social themes as well. I would, however, need the support of many kind-hearted people. I would like to take on many worthy projects under the banner of my start-up production company ‘Beyond the Limit Creations’, and hope to get such support from both mainstream and niche audiences.
Q. Any message for young aspiring filmmakers like yourself?
I would like to convey to other young filmmakers that cinema cannot be treated as a mere profession or as a hobby: it is a powerful medium that can influence the lives of many. Hence rather than focusing on untruths and imaginary worlds, strive to capture as many truths as possible – these can transform the world. Audiences that love world cinema will definitely love your work.