Amit Khanna’s new web series — Still About Section 377 — is making waves, just like its prequel, All About Section 377, touted to be the first web series on the LGBT community, did.
Still About Section 377 deals with the journey of an urban gay couple that goes to a village in order to convince the family of one of the partners to accept their relationship. It also has a track on a transgender person based in the same village, who is fighting social prejudices and yearning to make a living. The series highlights the myths people have about the LGBTQ community and attempts to educate masses.
Recently, Still about Section 377 was screened at Viman Nagar Social, Phoenix MarketCity, where Khanna spoke about the series and the myths surrounding the queer community. Produced by Dancing Shiva, the series is available on Sony Liv app.
A filmmaker, fashion photographer and actor from Mumbai, Khanna is the recipient of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Excellence Award in the field of fashion photography.
Still About section 377 and his English-Telugu crossover film Friends-in-Law had their international premieres at the 71st Cannes Film Festival (2018). Apart from Khanna, the web series also stars Gulshan Nain, Ankita Bhatiya, Gunjan Malhotra, and Yash Yogi as the main protagonists.
Talking about how difficult it was for him to find an actor to play the gay character in the first series (which he went on to play), Khanna says that nobody wanted to play a feminine gay character. “Nobody was willing, so everyone in the team convinced me to do it. That’s how I ended up playing the character. I did make some changes, since I’m also one of the writers but I played it with honesty. I decided to be as natural as I could. I got a lot of support from my co-actors, especially from Gulshan, who was the only trained actor in the series. The rest of us were new. We did a lot of rehearsals and tried not to make it too mechanical,” he adds.
The character played by Khanna is effeminate and talks in a certain manner which makes it ‘obvious’ about its sexual orientation. “I decided to make my character stereotypical, but to break the stereotype. We have a particular image about the people from LGBTQ community; I have shown that image but at the same time I have tried to prove that there are various other aspects to them and that all of them go through the same range of emotions that every human being goes through. Every character has a depth and we avoided making a mockery of them. That’s how it became more real. They are funny but they are emotional as well and take things seriously or lightly as and when needed,” says Khanna. The characteristics are loosely inspired from real people and when you look at them, you feel you have met them somewhere.
MORE FILMS ON LGBTQ?
With the Supreme Court repealing Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and decriminalising homosexuality, the audience is expecting creative minds to make movies on them. Says Khanna, “Web was a platform where people were anyway experimenting with new subjects. But now that homosexuality has been decriminalised, a lot of filmmakers and actors will be willing to explore the subject in a much better way. In fact, Friends-in-Law got an A certificate when we had applied in June and now after the repealing of Section 377, they gave it a U/A certificate. The government is becoming open and it is liberating. I’m very happy with the way things are moving forward, but now we have to create social acceptance instead of just making movies on the LGBTQ.”
Khanna feels that filmmakers have to talk about the fundamental rights of the community, how two men or two women will live together and so on. But is the audience ready to watch, we ask. “The audience will watch any content if done in a dignified manner. Love, hatred, falling in love — these are some of the emotions that everybody goes through and when people see these emotions in art, notwithstanding the sexual orientation of the characters, the emotions will resonate with them,” answers Khanna.
He has made two other webseries titled Woh Wali Picture and Meri Girlfriend Ka Boyfriend which were shot in Pune and will be out in December. We have seen thousands of people coming out on streets to celebrate the victory of love after Supreme Court’s verdict came out. However, just like one of the gay characters in the web series, who is marrying a girl because of family pressure, people are still scared to come out in the open about their orientation. “Coming out or acceptance is an ongoing process and it is going to take sometime because it’s just the government which has agreed. Sooner or later, the ratio of people revealing their identity will improve,” adds Khanna.
People’s perception about homosexuality is a result of social conditioning, says Khanna, adding that they often fail to understand that sex is an outcome of love. “Love is a much bigger emotion compared to sex. It is everyone’s fundamental right to love whomsoever they want. You just get one life and you need to live it freely. When people watch the series, they will understand how important it is to love, live and let others live freely. People shouldn’t even bother what your orientation is and there shouldn’t even be a group classifying them as different. The classification is so hypocritical!” he asserts.