Anureet Watta’s ‘Kinaara’: A Queer Story from the Partition

Anureet Watta’s debut short film Kinaara may only be three minutes long, but the 180 seconds are enough to touch the viewer’s heart. Poignant and soft, the movie beautifully captures a WLW relationship in the early 20th century. It begins in August 1947, as Nehru’s speech “Tryst with Destiny” rings across India. In this way, it introduces us to a romance that is doomed from the start — not just crushed under the weight of the patriarchy and heteronormativity, but also destroyed by the Partition of India.

Throughout the movie, the protagonist narrates a letter she is writing to her lover:

“I do not know what to do with liberty,” she writes, “My only country is at the base of your neck.”

A brilliant, raw script is what makes this movie so powerful.The feelings this monologue captures are strong and real, inevitably stirring the viewer’s heart. The narrator’s voice is loving, heartfelt, and hopeful. This, paired with a simple Indian tune in the background, reminiscent of Malgudi Days, the film is quick to feel personal to the South Asian community. Says director Anureet Watta, “I wanted to capture rage, and erasure and desperation. However, as I moved along, it turned out to be something much softer. Hence, it is now a story of a doomed romance – dreams that have been crushed under the patriarchy and heteronormativity. In the lap of huge ideas like liberty and freedom, it’s a simple story of longing and a little bit of hope.”

The visuals of Kinaara are simple: scenes shifting quickly to show the progression of the story as the narrator speaks. From a suitcase slowly being filled to the braiding of hair, the scenes are achingly familiar to Desi settings. Explains Watta, “The movie has been written, directed, shot and acted in by me itself. My sister and my Nani helped at various stages and you can find glimpses of them, too. It’s been shot on a mobile camera.”

As Independence Day comes and goes, it is important to remember not just the celebration but also the losses that August 1947 brought about. The Partition of India displaced approximately twenty million people, and led to the deaths of anywhere between 200,000 to two million people. Amongst these, queer narratives have rarely been recorded or heard of — Kinaara does a wonderful job of capturing one such story, that could’ve easily been real. In its approach, it doesn’t just tell the story of a romance, but also the disillusionment that followed the Independence, in a style that is reminiscent of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s masterpiece Subh-e-Azadi. The film, in it’s unique way, leaves us with the same message: This isn’t surely the dawn we waited for so eagerly.

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Saachi Gupta is an LGBTQ+ activist, animal lover and the author of 'With Love, or Something Like That.' She is a strong believer in equality amongst mankind.
Saachi Gupta

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