Oye Chennai ! Nope. Not Namma Chennai. Its Oye Chennai! Breaking away from the mould of tradition and embracing the changing metropolis - this website is a colorful, exciting digital space that aims to provide all the information and insider scoop that one needs to hop about the city of Chennai. From Cinema reviews to City Secrets, Polls and Event reviews – Oye Chennai is a much welcome part of the local interwebs that cater to the Chennai-vasi. Oh! and did we mention that its LGBT friendly too? Yep ! These folks are right there supporting the movement and providing a media platform to showcase all the local LGBT happenings in the city as well. Recently, they partnered with the Reel Desires Queer International Festival and we had the chance to chat with Vetrevel, the founder of Oye Chennai about his experiences during this collaborative endeavor. It was wonderful to hear his thoughts and feelings on this film festival and being part of this amazing effort by communities that support and are part of the LGBT community.
Q. Tell us a bit about your background and how you came up with Oye! Chennai as a concept. What is it like running it day to day ?
I did Chemical Engineering in SSNCE, Chennai and passed with distinction but by the end of my final year I realised my passion is entrepreneurship. That took me to the UK to pursue Master’s in International Business. During this time, I did take part in entrepreneurial contests and even tried to launch a business in the UK. However I reached a point I had to decide between India and the UK as a business destination and chose to return.
Every city is unique and has a history which I feel needs to be celebrated. Such an online space for Chennai was missing and it motivated me to come up with something for the city. I did my research and came up with the idea of one-stop web portal for all the information on the city. It is basically city based infotainment covering cinema, corporate, sports, arts, lifestyle and campus. Everything comes with a flavour of Chennai and it’s not your normal news you can find anywhere. Apart from this, our USP is the City Secrets section dedicated to the history of the city!
There are many organisations and individuals doing their bit for the society but unfortunately not everything is covered in the main stream media and sometimes it’s just not possible. To address that, we have a section called Partnering Chennai where we cover these initiatives and the events associated with it in Chennai.
A typical day will be checking out the city, doing some research, working on articles and editing before stuff goes live. We are young and we devote time to marketing, networking and establishing partnerships. Our other services include multimedia design and event management. There are two teams and the team which isn’t involved in the website takes care of the other services.
Q. How did the collaboration with the Reel International Queer Film Festival come about? How did Oye! Chennai contribute/ support this particular event?
I have to tell you a story! Earlier this year I volunteered with Prajnya at a film festival where I met Samidha. She introduced me to Ramki, who was organising REEL DESIRES. I attended their meeting in which it was decided Oye!Chennai will be media partner for the event.
We took care of the publicity of the film festival right from formulation of the plan to execution. The Oye!Chennai website, FB page and other mainstream event listing websites carried information on the festival. Our radio partner made announcements during the week of the festival. In fact our efforts reached Pinksixty brand who were interested in mentioning REEL DESIRES in their new show on movie reviews.
Q. One of the things we noticed about the Film Festival was the large number of groups working together. How was it working with all these different NGOs, Community partners and LGBT groups? Does any of this experience feedback into Oye! Chennai in any way?
I thoroughly enjoyed working with all the partners. It was so much fun and it gave me a chance to meet some wonderful people. Over all a great experience which has inspired me to do more. I am not an activist and don’t think I can ever contribute to the cause but Oye!Chennai will always support these organisations and help our readers understand the need to be supportive.
Q. What are your thoughts or feelings on the Queer movement and Gay visibility in Chennai, or even more broadly in India if you’d prefer? What do you think as the role of websites – be it like Oye! Chennai or Orinam etc – towards this effort?
It is great to see so many organisations all over India working on gay rights. However I feel we need more and it isn’t enough as many people are still in the dark. Legislation can be in place but unless people are aware and can lend support, things aren’t going to change. It’s easy for me to say people should come out but unless there is confidence that society will embrace them, no one will as it takes a lot of courage.
Awareness is the key and we need to reach out to as many people as we can. Websites play an all important role in spreading the news and supporting the cause. We at Oye!Chennai always will and I hope other websites too can lend support!
Q. During the festival, one of the organizers mentioned that you’d volunteered behind the scenes at the festival and gone through hundreds of film entries to create the final list of movies that were shown. What was that experience like for you, personally? Any hidden gems you’d discovered that you’d like to share?
Yes, that’s right but I was more involved in procurement than selection. Apart from my role as media partner through Oye!Chennai, I was actively involved in procuring films from all over the world! I was also on the film review panel and ended up watching about 20 films. You would have seen rhe ones I liked at the festival. Vecinas is one of the films I voted for!
The whole involvement was fantastic. The interaction with so many producers, directors and distributors was a humbling experience. I may have contacted close to 100 film festival organizers and most of them did respond. We didn’t have a big budget but many were kind enough to waive the fee. They were all willing to help which in itself was great.
Q. Finally, tell us your favourite part of the film festival and being a part of it . What do you feel was the greatest takeaway you had from Oye! Chennai’s involvement in bringing this LGBT platform to Chennai? Was it a movie? Was it something said during a panel discussion?
To be honest, I haven’t watched all the films that were screened and so definitely it is not a film. Due to my other commitments, I couldn’t be at the panel discussions and that can’t be it as well. However the greatest takeaway was this feeling of responsibility. It’s our society and we can’t just be spectators. I just felt there ought to be many more events happening on a regular basis. More awareness, support and involvement is what is needed and this festival has showed it can be achieved. Oye!Chennai will continue to support these events and I personally will volunteer.