Onir on being a jury member at IFFM and why he thinks queer representation in Indian films is pathetic

Onir who has been associated with the festival in various capacities for over a decade, says the initiative is doing just what’s needed for Indian cinema

Filmmaker Onir who is known for unforgettable films like My Brother… Nikhil and Bas Ek Pal, is back in the news for two reasons. Onir has been nominated as one of the jury members for the Short Film Competition that’s part of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) which kicked off yesterday, and the filmmaker is making a sequel to his critically-acclaimed and award-winning anthology of films, I Am, which he made exactly 11 years ago. In an exclusive chat with Indulge, the filmmaker throws light on what’s brewing.

Though Indian cinema is known for Bollywood across the globe, IFFM has played a key role in ensuring regional and independent films get showcased to the global audience. Onir who has been associated with the festival in various capacities for over a decade, says the initiative is doing just what’s needed for Indian cinema. “The festival celebrates diversity and inclusion. It feels good to see a platform like this that showcases other aspects of cinema from India, other talent and artistes to the native population and to Indian expats in Australia,” he says. But Onir in his capacity as a jury member is looking for something unique at the festival. As a filmmaker who has been a progressive voice, he says he is looking forward to newer perspectives. “The theme of the contest is modern slavery and equality. Human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon and I want to see how filmmakers will capture this through their perspective with a world view,” he says, adding further, “The so-called developed countries have a regressive and barbaric mindset. Though human trafficking happens in India as well, a large part of trafficking across the globe happens for the rich and developed countries.”

While Onir has been busy with IFFM, the filmmaker has also been neck-deep in the making of We Are, the sequel to I Am. The project is an anthology of four stories from different cities and explores the subject of queer life. “It is a sequel in spirit. It deals with queer rights and life, and celebrates the rainbow colours,” says the filmmaker, who is among the earliest to even start a conversation about homosexuality and the queer community in mainstream films. Many other filmmakers too have followed in his footsteps, but it’s taken a while for different aspects of the subject to be discussed. Though there have been some fine films made, Onir begs to differ. “Eighty per cent of the queer representation is pathetic. Apart from Made In Heaven, I can’t think of a single series that has portrayed it so well. A lot more can be explored but the portrayal in Laxmii Bomb is cringe-worthy and the representation in Shankuntala Devi is problematic. In 1996 we had Fire, today we have nothing like it,” he signs off.


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