Durban - The movie caused a sensation for screening Bollywood’s first gay kiss. The sequel featured the industry’s first gay wedding.
Actor, writer and director Kapil Kaustubh Sharma – not to be confused with the comedian of the same name – and actor, model and dancer Yuvraaj Parashar were in Durban last week for the South African premier of movie Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyon (Don’t Know Why) at the Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
Sadly, a hiccup with the Film and Publication Board ratings of the movies at the festival meant it had to be postponed to later this month, but The Independent on Saturday caught up with the pair while they were in town.
Sharma spoke of the mood in India before the movie was released.
“In India, LGBT issues were backward. It did not seem possible to make a movie. And gay characters that directors were showing were caricatures. They were typecast and too feminine and the subject of cheap jokes,” he said.
“Then I saw Brokeback Mountain and it inspired me. The actors were real. It had a human side. I thought if it could happen in Hollywood, why not in India.”
Sharma and Parashar created Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyon in 2010, scripted by Sharma and produced by Parashar.
“I produced it with my own money. There was no government support, no release support. There were problems from political parties, threatening mail and death threats. We were accused of destroying Indian culture,” Parashar said.
“After the release of the poster, I found 500 people protesting outside my house,” Sharma said.
The poster for Dunno Y.... Na Jaane Kyon which caused a stir in India when it was released
It was also tough getting the movie shown in cinemas in India. Just the poster of the two caused waves of controversy.
“They only wanted family films,” Parashar said.
“So sex between a man and a woman is obviously a family film. But those who did get to see the movie, did appreciate it.”
“Outside India the reaction was positive,” Sharma said. “The BBC flew to Mumbai, it was featured in all the world’s top publications.”
The film has since won awards at film festivals around the world, most recently in Athens last year.
“The other problem is that many gay communities felt they could not watch the movie because people would think they were gay. I can take my sister to watch a movie on prostitution and they won’t think she’s a prostitute. But go watch a gay movie and people will think you are gay.” he said.
“A movie can’t change your gender. If you’re gay, you’re gay. If you’re straight, you’re straight. But a movie can change your life.”
He tells of the mails and Facebook messages from a number of gays and lesbians who had courage to come out after watching the movie.
“The reaction from the LGTB community made it worth it. Even if it only made a difference to one person’s life.” he said.
After the release both actors faced a tough two years.
“It was really sad. We had no work. We were tagged for playing a gay role as if it’s a crime. If you play a terrorist or a murderer, you’ll get more roles.” Sharma said.
“I survived giving dance classes,” Parashar said.
In 2012 Sharma started writing the sequel Dunno Y2 (superscript) Life is a Moment which they started shooting in Norway in 2013 and this time looked at a cross-border relationship between Indian and Pakistani characters. And a wedding between two lesbians.
Asked if Dunno Y will become a trilogy, Sharma is unsure: “People ask why we are making this same film again and again. In the first film we had the first gay kiss, in the second, the first gay marriage in Bollywood, and the censors passed both. But our audiences do want more and they want real stories.”
And now the creative duo have produced one of Bollywood’s first series – Life Love & Screw Ups – whose second season is in production at the moment.
“It’s a light comedy featuring good stars and on a decent budget,” Parashar said.
“It’s about seven friends, who all have one thing in common and that’s screwed up relationships. There’s even a lesbian relationship which will feature some fireworks in the second series. It’s quite bold.”
Sharma believes India has come a long way since 2010.
“There is still conservatism in the industry, there are still stories not being told, and there are still those caricatures, but gay life in India, while still discreet, is in a better place,” he said.
Parashar sums it up: “I feel proud and I feel no regrets. I put so much into this and one day India will appreciate the movies.”
The Durban Gay and Lesbian film festival runs from September 28. For details see www.dglff.org.za