You had said that Loev reflects the slice of reality you had encountered in Mumbai. Can you elaborate on that?
I reached Mumbai in 2013 from Los Angeles when the Supreme Court had reinstated Article 377. Having just arrived from the US where they had been fighting for gay marriage and equal rights, it was a little surreal to see the government make criminals of these citizens. I was staying with my aunt and uncle then, two of the nicest, most religious and peace-loving people you’ll ever meet, but I began to notice all the accidental homophobia they would indulge in, a little joke here, a little nudge there. I also started to interact with self-identifying members of the LGBT community and saw how unaffected they were by the ruling. For me, the film came out of that context, not as a direct weapon for activists but more of a photograph; a look at what life is like for someone in love, LGBT or not.
You are very clear about neither getting a ‘gay movie’ tag or being called art-house cinema.
Anyone who sees the film agrees with us. The film is about love and, in that way, is no different from Silsila, Lamhe, Lootera or any other film that has tried to delve into those complexities. Yes, the characters are men but in every city we have screened, as many straight couples approach us talking about how it speaks to their relationship.
Why did you choose to be a filmmaker and how did you train yourself before making your debut?
I grew up in Siliguri and spent a lot of time in the Northeast. I had no idea film was a profession or could be studied; was happy wolfing down as many films as I could handle. The whole filmmaker thing didn’t occur to me until I saw Monsoon Wedding and heard Mira Nair’s maxim: “If we don’t tell our stories, no one will”. I went to a film school in New York and worked in the industry in New York City and LA for most of the past decade.
What made your tinker with the letters in the film’s title?
I’ve heard a number of interpretations and won’t deny our audience any of them but to me, it points to the visual image of two men in love or holding hands or whatever. To someone more mainstream, that may feel or look like something else. So on the most basic level, the title acknowledges that: it may not look like love, but it’s still love.
Can you talk about putting the cast together and losing a key member?
The casting process made me nervous. Stereotyping and slotting actors is a very common practice, so I understand why actors would be scared of taking on a gay part. But all the actors all surprised me, the level of enthusiasm in the community was overwhelming. Shiv Pandit and I had gone to school together. I knew Siddharth Menon from his fantastic work in Peddlers. Dhruv Ganesh was the surprise find. His passing is still inexplicable to me. I hope Loev does some justice to his talent.