A glance… A smile… A connection… A restrained love… They say the deepest conversations do not require words. And if its about a unique love story, everything you need to express gets blurred. And if I say it is about two men, will that make you judgmental? Not really if it is a film as delicately stitched together as Sisak. Touted as India’s first silent LGBTQ film, this 20-minute short has been winning hearts wherever its director Faraz Arif Ansari has taken it — Wicked Queer in Boston, international film festivals in New York, Brazil, Mexico, San Diego, Kashish LGBTQ Mumbai Film Festival 2017 and the recent Pune screening, Sisak has been making a noise everywhere. It has won the Best Overall Best Film at the FilmOut San Diego Film Festival and even been nominated for the Satyajit Ray Award which will be announced later this month. So why did Faraz pick silence over words to convey the struggle against section 377 of the Indian Penal Code?
“I wanted to tell a story of love between two men traveling in Mumbai local. Because it is a story about two men, things immediately start to change because you are dealing with something which is a crime in the nation, that you cannot love someone of the same sex. My responsibility as a filmmaker is to start a dialogue. That is why I made a film wherein language is not a barrier,” Faraz said in an exclusive chat with indianexpress.com.
Faraz has in the past worked in close association with filmmaker Amol Gupte. He has been the co-writer and c-director on Bollywood projects like Taare Zameen Par, Stanley ka Dabba and Gippi. But both Sisak and his earlier work Siberia have showcased his storytelling. Siberia even got Faraz a Dadasaheb Phalke International Film Festival Award for Best Director – Jury’s Choice, apart from others. So how does Faraz manage to direct his own films on a shoe-string budget, few resources and a crew which mostly includes his close friends?
“To be honest there was nobody who was ready to produce this film. Initially, I finalised two well known actors in the industry but five days before the shoot they backed out. But then I managed to get the people who believed in me. Wherever I travelled with my two actors, people asked me how did you make two heterosexuals perform like this. And the entire film is shot in six hours because we did not have money to get a camera for another night and we did not take permission to shoot in the train. We had no support or planning. We just had a dream of making a film,” Faraz remembered the shooting of Sisak.
Sisak is the story about two men, played by actors Jitin Gulati and Dhruv Singhal, who travel in the same quintessential Mumbai local every day back home. It explores their silent connection as they try to gather courage and express their love for each other, but fail owing to social stereotypes. With the use of sounds and ample symbols, Faraz has succeeded in forgoing the need for words, as his actors convey it through their gestures and emotions. Sonam Kapoor had in January this year launched the trailer of Sisak on her Twitter page. Filmmaker Tanuja Chandra also reviewed the film.
— Sonam Kapoor (@sonamakapoor) January 30, 2017
— Faraz Arif Ansari (@futterwackening) June 13, 2017
After Sisak was welcomed with open arms at every film festival where it has been screened, how does Faraz find audience reception different at various platforms? “Abroad the kind of attention you get is very subtle and in India, we know to express a bit too much at times. I haven’t spent a single rupee in the PR of my film. Both in India and America, people have written articles, put up pictures and they are just celebrating the film. I think I am very blessed. People should realise that small films need more support than a Rs 100 crore film,” the director said.
So where does Faraz see Sisak making a change in the mindset of society and regarding the LGBTQ community? “We are working so hard to somewhere change hearts of the people, who think being a homosexual is unnatural. But yes it is a long battle. People coming to watch my film is one step clear,” he asserts.
Now that Sisak has got its due, Faraz next wants to make a rom-com which he has written titled Simmi Aur Salman, and wishes to cast Alia Bhatt, Arjun Kapoor and Sidhath Malhotra in it. “Every movie I make with a boy and a girl, I will make another movie with a boy and a boy. After ‘Simmi Aur Salman’ I want to make a feature film ‘Surkh’. It is a love story between a Pakistani man and an Indian man,” Faraz signed off.