It was early last year when I got a call from a friend late at night. It was Raja. I wasn’t expecting his call as I know he always goes to bed early. A little concerned, I picked up the phone and before I could say anything, all I could hear was his sob which turned to howls seconds later. Shocked, I kept asking him repeatedly what the matter was. But in vain. The call got disconnected and I was unable to reach Raja after that.
The very next day, I rushed to his place. But he wasn’t there. Oddly enough, his parents refused to welcome me in. This was bizarre as they treated me like their own son when I had visited them before. All that they told me was, “Raja is fine. Leave him alone now.” I went away but made several failed attempts to reach out to him.
A few weeks would pass by after which I heard that Raja is getting married. Surprised by the news as it was completely out of the blue, I again went to his place to congratulate him. But he refused to talk. I later heard that the marriage was a quite “hush hush family affair”. It was strange as Raja was someone who always loved his friends and didn’t waste an opportunity to celebrate with them. I felt a bit annoyed with him. But then moved on with life as a few words from my mother rang in my ears, “People change!”.
Months would pass by after which I came to know that Raja is in prison. When I inquired, I found out that it was under the section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes sexual activities “against the order of nature” illegal. I was shocked! I knew his in-laws and reached out to them, but in vain. His wife had called off the marriage. When you are booked under 377 in India, it is extremely difficult to get a bail. I decided to visit him in prison finally. I had my inhibitions whether he would talk to me. But once he saw me, he broke down. I shivered to see him in such a state as I never had before. It was for the first time that day he told me that he is a gay man and the moment his parents came to know about his “secret relationship” with a colleague of his, they got him married to the daughter of a family friend. When Raja realised that the marriage was not working out at all, he decided to share his “secret” with his wife, who he thought would understand him. But it backfired! I was too dumbfounded to say anything as it opened up a complete different horizon in front of my eyes. “Why didn’t you tell us about this before? We could have done something!” He took a beat and looked into my eyes, “Would you be able to talk to me in the same way? Would you be the same friend if I told you about my sexuality? I would have been banished by the entire society!” I shivered again! I felt that it was not only a question to me, but to everyone around us! Strangely, even the ones who would accept him the way he is, they would also be looked down upon by the “society”! “You are friend with a gay man?” You can almost hear the chuckles and insults! I can never forget the look in Raja’s eyes that day. It pierced my body. I felt helpless myself.
A couple of months later, section 377 was ruled out by the Supreme Court of India. Many like Raja finally found courage in coming out of their closets. But even after that, the LGBT rights in India are looked at as some kind of “taboo subject” to talk about by many. I still see many who ignore to face it and also inflict mental torture to the ones who decide to come out. I still feel a helpless rage within me when I see friends of mine in pain because of who they are. Many even give in and take their own lives. Don’t they have the right to live the way they are? And can’t we accept them the way they are? I knew I had to pick up my camera and tell their story! This is the film I have been wanting to make for long! This is the film which liberated me as a person first and then as a filmmaker. This is not only my most personal film, but also a catharsis for me! I HAD TO MAKE IT HAPPEN!