Samar and Zeiya (Singer and Creative Director)
Mohit and Raqeeb (Director and Writer)
Note from the makers: Imagine a tapestry woven with threads soaked in memories of your life, enriched with motifs of those who came and went and became a source of light that shed a warm glow when you needed it so. Raushni is that tapestry. It’s a reminder and a remainder of all those who were, are and will be that pure, tender and liberating light for you.
Raushni is a testament to queer lives and how we navigate the spaces of love throughout our lifetime, the love which lights up our lives. The film begins with very soft humming over guitar which just warms the heart. More than that, it’s how the landscape shifts and we see one of the characters get up from the bed and walk towards the bookshelf. From there we go into a peek of their childhood memories, weaving around instances of love beginning with the tender love between a mother and her child or that of between a child and an adorable cat. All this while, the lyrics just touch your heart to the deepest depth to the tune of “jab se aye ho tum, ho gyi hai raushni (since you’ve walked into my being, it has dawned with light)”.
As the song breaks into the lines “le chalo tum apni aagosh mein churake (take me with you, cloaked in your embrace)” the film takes us into what it feels like to capture a lover through one’s eyes or a camera. And as it progresses, we do get a sense of the ups and downs that are part of life. At the same time, there’s togetherness or a feeling of ‘forever until we’re together’. The film ends at the same shelf, but this time the person is alone, diving into the memories. The film ends with the protagonist looking out the window and just reminiscing about all those moments of life. Within a distance of getting up from the bed, going to the bookshelf, and then turning towards the window to look outside, we get a complete story of someone’s life – a warm tapestry of queer joy, love, and warmth.
It indeed is a celebration of someone’s life, and reminded me of this quote my T.S. Eliot – “The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” As per Mohit and Raqeeb (Director and Writer), Raushni is a collective gift from all of us to the world, to people who are still thinking, lost, confused; life is but a journey, make sure you make the best out of it. For Samar and Zeiya, the line jab se aye ho tum, ho gyi hai Raushni signifies the purity of human connection or how someone’s presence can fill you with light. Extending upon the importance of showing a queer storyline, Samar and Zeiya mentioned,
“You cannot draw a line in the sand where your empathy, kindness and acceptance or simply the spirit of human cooperation towards a better, more equal world don’t exist. As an ally, understanding how we can do better from a position of privilege is a lifelong journey. But we all have to start somewhere and for me, this film is especially important for people who are yet to embrace these truths but are open to listening and (un)learning.”
As a young queer person, trying to figure out where do I have home or in which people I have home, the film is a reminder that there will always be highs and lows and it’s crucial to acknowledge the impact of so many people who are not present with us anymore. This particularly holds true for queer people since this is one of the rare stories where we see queer people in their later life stages remembering their days of youth, which provides for a hopeful and a heart wrenching representation. At the scene towards the end of the movie near the bookshelf, Samar and Zeiya say, “you can almost hear a loud, echoing silence of separation and loss in the visuals, and yet the passage of time and its gift of slow acceptance are also very much present right in there.”
The creative process behind the scenes had been also very intriguing since the song itself went through a tremendous journey from being only based around acapella and guitar to approaching it like a film score which gives it a very theoretical feeling. Samar further added, “The whole process from conceptualising the film to executing the ideas was the most fun we have ever had in a creative workspace.” In addition to this, the roots for the idea behind the film goes a decade back with so many personal motifs from the makers’ life stitched neatly into what they call a tapestry. The first half of the song is about a stream of memories unlocked when Samar found a picture of him holding his baby sister Sarah, in his arms.
The scene where we go through a wild run of the person’s life is also reminiscent of the movie Spirited Away and when Chihiro just knows that it’s Haku. And this form of finding something is also a queer experience. The second half of the movie is about the people who have been in Samar’s life as a source of life. The fact that the film is entirely based in the closed space of home also holds another importance since it’s almost like a closed box of memories that we carry with ourselves always.
Raushni is a triumphant celebration of various stages of lives of queer people, where the focus is not only on trauma and tragedy. As per Mohit, there is so much dichotomy in so many scenes which captures the essence of life; be it whether the scene at the end which can be both hopeful or heart wrenching or the one where the mother is trying to calm down her child, which presents both chaos and calmness.
It took a lot of time and effort for this to come true as after hearing the song, Raqeeb and Mohit loved it, then started working on ideas and decided upon a concept. From there, a team was assembled to work on this awesome piece. The standout moment was the one at the bookshelf where both of them stand together and one leans onto another, and then suddenly it’s just one of them, which is very true for queer people because most of us tend to find home in spaces away from home and in people and they do signify hope and light.
The film is deeply personal for many reasons. For Raqeeb, a lot of his personal moments have gone into the making of the script, especially woven around the life of the main character. The film certainly is one about rejoice and celebration but also an act of acceptance of what has been lost, and how we carry on our life. And that is a simple but a tough message to give because we all are so nostalgic about our memories that we never tend to move ahead with them. We have our ways of making peace with what we have.