One of the English translations of ‘Almari’ is ‘closet’, which is largely used in the context of ‘coming out’. It’s considered that only LGBTQIA+ people have to come out of the closet and tell the whole word ‘who they are’—as if heterosexuals don’t come out every day by introducing their spouses and talking about their love interests with people in their everyday life.
Also, post coming out, there’s one more step in the process waiting to close the loop: acceptance.
The discussions around closetedness, coming out, and acceptance have largely been topics of much interest for those studying queer theory, which is why it’s often too much — read boring, uninteresting — for allies and potential allies to digest the meaning and essence of the process.
Pop culture doesn’t help either. It’s often marred with bad storytelling, flawed viewpoints, and uninformed opinions; therefore, there’s an urgency to produce content that resonates and engages with people from varied lived experiences. FNP Media’s short film Almariyaan, inspired by Ajay Krishnan’s sketch, fills this gap quite effectively.
Karan’s woke parents and their teacher Jagoo
Written and directed by Jiya Bhardwaj, Almariyaan stars Pranav Sachdeva, Supriya Shukla, Shrikant Verma, and Rajesh Sharma in the lead roles. The short, in just over 18 minutes, does what most full-length movies are unable to: meaningfully engage the audience on a sensitive issue.
Its opening shot offers a prelude to the perceived reluctance of the protagonist Karan (Pranav Sachdeva) to ‘open up’ to his parents. The way he looks in the mirror convinces you that he’s hiding something. It’s because that’s what movies have taught us.
But to undo what they have been conditioned to think and do (being homophobic, for example), Karan’s parents — Aarti (Supriya Shukla) and Rajesh (Rajesh Sharma) — are taking coaching from Jagoo (Shrikant Verma). They find it an opportune moment to exhibit their wokeness and implement Jagoo’s lessons when their boy, Karan, asks them to assemble as he has something to share.
Their excitement knows no bounds. For this anticipated ‘coming out’ occasion, the mother brings paraphernalia to celebrate it. Seeing this, the annoyed child requests their parents to behave like a ‘normal’ person, but the trained mother blurts: What’s normal for us may not necessarily be normal for others. The father nods in agreement.
This movie perfectly presents parents’ struggle to ensure that they don’t end up hurting their child. It’s heartwarming to see that; however, their ignorance towards their child’s agency to come to them willingly makes space for humour that’s enjoyable.
‘The Art of Acceptance’
Jagoo sir’s interesting tutorials on becoming aware of LGBTQIA+ people’s struggles and helping parents master ‘the art of acceptance’ are hilarious. Shrikant is a delight to watch. Each time he appeared, I broke into a guffaw.
Inspired by their teacher’s strategies to help make coming out easier and encouraging for their child, Aarti and Rajesh start singing a pride rap — ‘mera chanda layega ik banda’ — by Dev Bhardwaj. When it gets too much for Karan to bear, he shuts them up and ‘comes out’ as homophobic.
This makes for a funny ‘tables have turned’ moment that leverages a reverse-psychological conversations conversations to present an empathetic view of LGBTQIA+ people’s alienation by society. Without being preachy, and using humour as an instrument of change, the scenes towards the end convey the timeliness and importance of this movie.
On FNP’s website, I found Pranav Sachdeva’s confession, in which he says that he was “borderline homophobic before Almariyaan happened.” He further shares how he “transformed as an individual after doing this film,” as for him “the role was internal, not just as an actor but as a human being.”
As an ally, to admit their ignorance and to contribute — through any means, in this case, a movie — a viewpoint that may help kickstart a perception shift in the society are decent first steps that Pranav has taken. He exercised a choice that Jagoo left us with to make when this movie ends: Mera gay hona meri sachhai hai, aur aapka homophobic hona ik choice. Ye farak mat bhooliyega. (My being gay is my truth, but you being homophobic is a choice. Don’t forget this difference.)