Last week saw the release of Dunno Y2 the much awaited sequel of the controversial and much appreciated Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon! released in 2010. Today on Chai With Shai we have the co-director of Dunno Y2 – Tonje Gjevjon sipping the customary chai with me along as we discuss all about the LGBT community issues apart from her first Indo-Norwegian movie collaboration. Here are excerpts of our chat.
Congrats on Dunno Y2 (smiles)
Thanks (smiles back)
So tell me how did this movie take shape?
Me and my performance group (The Hungry Hearts) met Yuvraaj and Kapil at Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Film Festival where Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon was screened and where my performance band had a concert. We liked the film, Kapil and Yuvraaj liked our performance concert and we became friends. Then after a year we started talking about the possibility to make a feature film together. In 2014 an Indian team of about 30 people came to Norway and we started the shooting of Dunno Y2… Life is A Moment.
Wow! I heard that the movie is partly inspired by your life, how true is it?
In the film there is a story about a lesbian couple, so Edith (my wife) and I actually play ourselves. In the film we reveal the way we met in real life so yes, the movie is partly inspired by our life (smiles).
How did you meet your wife?
In a lesbian bar where Edith worked as bartender (giggles). I fell in love the moment I met her beautiful eyes. To get her attention I danced for her (blushes).
That’s an amazing story (winks). Sanjay Sharma and you share directorial credits for DY2. So how was the work divided and how was it collaborating with an Indian director?
Sometimes we directed together, sometimes he directed and sometimes I directed. Intimate love sequences and confrontation scenes I directed. Sanjay is way more experienced than me as a director, and I learned a lot from him. We also had the best cinematogrpher in the world in K. Ramsing and he gave us the most beautiful shots (smiles). He is brilliant and the beauty the audience will see on-screen is the result of collaboration between K. Ramsingh, Sanjay Sharma and I.
The collaboration was kind of difficult because Bollywood films are glamorous and colorful and Norwegian films are realistic and kind of simple. Our aim was to mix Norwegian and Indian film directing to convey the gap between the two very different cultures. Movies Masti Magic Studios brought a men only team, and in my team we were mostly women (laughs). So of course we had our disagreements. Sometimes it was necessary to take a decision, but we got through and I am proud of what we have achieved (smiles).
How is the LGBT situation in Norway compared to India?
In Norway LGBT people are considered equal to heterosexual people and it is of course legal to practice sex and get married for gay individuals. We have the same rights as heterosexuals. We have gay saunas for gay men, and areas out in nature where especially gay men meet and have sex. We have beaches for LGBT people and LGBT bars and discotheques. So to be gay in Norway is easy compared to India where it is forbidden by penal code 377 (smiles).
That’s nice to hear (smiles). So what kind of reaction did DY2 gather after its screening at various festivals and in India?
In Oslo it got standing ovation (proudly). In India young boys came to me after the screenings and told me how important it is to make these kind of films. They also asked questions about LGBT rights in Norway and told me they hope the future will bring same LGBT rights to India.
Tell us something about working with Yuvraaj and Kapil?
They are both brilliant actors. They are always prepared and they really listen when I as director told them what kind of emotions I wanted them to express. They are extremely professional.
Have you watched any Bollywood movies? Which is your favorite movie among them?
I have seen lots of Bollywood movies, Gulaab Gang is my favorite. I hope there will be more Bollywood films with female perspective, with lesbians, feminists and girl power. Also girls should be able to see films where women are strong super-heroines that can change the world. I find Bollywood films with male main stories very boring (frowns). As audience and a woman I want to see films with female perspectives.
Going ahead will you be collaborating with more filmmakers from India?
Maybe (pauses). For sure I will have cinematographer K. Ramsingh in my future projects. I was so lucky to be invited to transgender/hijras event with Kinnar Maa Trust when I was in Mumbai and I am so impressed by the work this organization does for Hijra community’s rights. It was a very strong experience with so beautiful and strong Hijra people. I would love to make a film about the hijra community and their fight for equal rights. The way they are trying to change the mindset of Indian society towards hijras and how they are educating hijras so they can get work and by this change their position in the society is quite impressing (smiles). And the way they dance and express themselves through dance, art, music theatre is beautiful and intelligent. I LOVE them!
Being gay is illegal in India. What are your thoughts about the same?
Gays, Lesbians, Transgenders, Bisexuals are not criminals, we make love – not crime. This law is a shame on India – it makes India look uncivilized and uneducated. To be a LGBT person is a human right. India should support human rights and equality between men, women, transgender people, lesbians, bisexuals and homosexuals.
What are your future plans?
Our band The Hungry Hearts is releasing its first music album called “Dyke Forever” in November. It will have 11 electro pop disco songs about lesbian love. Also my production company, Blylaget Film, is making a documentary on Indian censorship and freedom of expression (smiles).
(Smiles) Any advice to the LGBT community members in India?
Yes, make art, films, music about LGBT issues. Be visible – cultural expression makes visibility. In all cultures gays are more visible than lesbians, transgender or bisexuals. If LGBT society in India really want to fight for equal rights be sure to have focus also on the lesbians and transgender people – remember that woman everywhere in the world in many ways have a lower status than men. If you really want to change things the fight for women rights are very important to support. So my advice is that LGBT organizations should collaborate and include women rights.
Okay now let’s have some fun…
Cool! I was waiting for the rapid fire (giggles)
Okay… so you have gone through my previous chats huh?
Yes (winks) and I totally love it (smiles)
Well then brace yourself…
Here is the first one coming to you… Who is the sexiest female actor you want to go on a date?
Wow… (smiles) What turns you on in a woman?
Sensuality and intelligence (smiles)
Aha… (smiles) Long drives or candlelit dinners?
Ahem… Long drives
What is that one thing in you that irritates Edith?
Losing house keys (giggles)
One night stands or committed relationship? (peers)
Committed relationship (winks)
Love is ….?
It was great talking to you Tonje.
Same here (shakes hand)
I wish you luck in all your future endeavours and let’s catch up every time you are in India (smiles)