Aimed at delivering a very simple universal message ‘Let us Love’, filmmaker Faraz Ansari initiated Sisak, India’s first silent LGBTQ themed film that revolves around two men falling in love in Mumbai’s local.
[Photographs by Inderjit Nagi & Syed Ali Arif]
The inception of Sisak
Ansari wanted to make a film about unsaid, unexpressed, helpless love – the way most homosexual love stories end up being in India and perhaps, countless other places across the world.
Speaking about the idea behind Sisak, Ansari said, “Our lives are an amalgamation of all these short, unsaid love stories – these experiences that we never give a voice to, these tiny fluttering of our heart that give us life and joy, even if it is fleeting. So the idea of making something on those lines was born then but Sisak truly took form when I helplessly stood in front of the Television Set on that dreadful November day in 2013 when the Supreme Court stepped back on 377.”
The Supreme Court’s judgement left him shocked. He wanted to fight back and do something but was helpless. So he sat back on the corner table in the cold cafe in Nainital and opened a final draft document and started to write. Something, that he would later realize, would be India’s First Silent LGBTQ Love Story. Something that would be called Sisak – that silent cry stuck in the chest.
Is Sisak first of its own kind?
Ansari believes that the portrayal of homosexuals in Bollywood has been very unkind and stupidly stereotypical. According to him, the LGBTQ community is extremely vast and filled with such wonderful people that one has to look closely to understand them.
“What is more sickening is that, homosexual filmmakers have themselves gone ahead and stereotyped the portrayal even further by making them wife snatchers, effeminate queens or men who dress in drag and talk like women and that is reduced as the only knowledge and portrayal of the community in cinema which is so sad. And this only comes from a lack of knowledge, perhaps fear and self-loathing because some of them are closeted homosexuals”, opined Ansari.
On the other side, Sisak narrates the story of two men falling in love but somewhere, audience won’t realize that it’s about two men. Hence, it’s about two individuals, two souls looking for love.
“I think that is the power of cinema – to change mind-sets and break stereotypes and give a strong voice. I hope with Sisak, people see beyond and understand that this whole fight is for love and acceptance,” expressed Ansari.
Behind the scene
Ansari invested his own savings to create Sisak and few of his friends helped him in arranging remaining funds including Production Designer Aparna Sud. To manage the expenses of post-production team Sisak has done crowd funding campaign with Wishberry.
One of the most interesting facts about Sisak is a well assembled team in which many of them have worked for free just to support the cause. Ansari informed that from Director of Photography Saurabh Goswami, Sound Designer Pritam Das to both actors Jitin and Dhruv, have worked for free.
The casting process of Sisak was the most taxing process. Most actors are so use to have a script with dialogues when they come for auditions that somewhere, that has caused a lot of damage. In the auditions, all the actors had to do was sit and read a book and at some point, look at someone who is staring at them and that’s about it.
“After auditioning more than 300 actors and not finding anyone who was even close to how I wanted the portrayal to be in Sisak, I was rethinking if I should make this film or not, until I auditioned Jitin Gulatin and Dhruv Singhal”, added Ansari.
Apart from casting, shooting was another big challenge for Ansari, not only in terms of production but also as a filmmaker. Sisak was on a shoestring budget and shooting without permission on the biggest and busiest train networks was not an easy task.
The actors’ cut
The film is indeed challenging for actors as well and both Jitin and Dhruv confessed that conversations with Ansari actually helped them in preparing for their respective roles.
Jitin informed that he was hooked on to it since the time Ansari gave a one line narration of the film – ‘It is a silent love story set in the Bombay locals.’ He further opined that the notion of setting a story in one of the prime public spaces like the Bombay locals is very romantic and is a potent place for a lot of possibilities. He was very happy to have such a nuanced film in his filmography and of course a bit anxious as he knew it won’t be an easy one.
“We have spoken endlessly about the characters, where they come from, about the LGBT community, about the various revelations in a gay man’s life…about hiding your true self and projecting a more acceptable version of yourself to the world around. Speaking to other members of the community and listening to their life stories helped a great deal in fleshing out the character”, expressed Jitin.
On the other side, Dhruv got the role 2 days before his college exams began and the shoot started a day after his exams ended. Thus, he was managing both studies and preparation for Sisak simultaneously. However, he agreed that Ansari’s tips on meditation really helped him get into the zone.
“I read about the problems faced by the LGBTQ community along with a few personal experiences of people that I found on the internet. But what really made me go into depth about all this were the interactions that Faraz made me have with people from the community and hearing them tell me their life stories. This made me realize that love is unbiased, untimely and doesn’t need the world’s approval or validation to exist. I also learned that love is felt and expressed the same way irrespective of gender! It’s a connection between souls and the gender of the person you love doesn’t and shouldn’t matter then, added Dhruv.
The Last word
Today content is the king and audience seeking entertaining quality cinema. Hence, Ansari claims that if you provide quality content, audience will come and make a 500 Crore hit out of an LGBT Themed film. But there is only one condition that is ‘create good stuff’.
“As a filmmaker my efforts are to make a mainstream, entertaining LGBT film without surrendering to stereotypes and opening up minds by showing that homosexual people and their lives that are just like anyone else. 10 years down the line, if one looks back at 2017, Sisak will be one of the most talked about, perhaps the most loved film and not a Bardinath Ki Dulhaniya or some such.” concluded Ansari.