Today in Let’s Talk Films With…. we have an interesting personality, he is a National Award-winning editor, fellow writer, filmmaker and in the recent past a voice for LGBTQ community apart from being a good friend of yours truly. So here are excerpts from our conversation where Apurva bares it all;
Welcome Apu on Let’s Talk Tell us about your growing up days, your family, schooling, hobbies etc.
I was a creative child. I loved drawing caricatures. Some were even published in the ‘kids column’ in a local newspaper. I was also a sportsman, a runner and I won a medal every year at the sports meet. I enjoyed writing poetry, I participated in dramatics & elocution. I sucked at Maths & Physics but excelled in languages & history. Music class was the highlight of my day, while on annual day, I was sure to be up on stage, performing.
Were you a storyteller even during your growing up days?
Yes. I loved telling stories to my friends and family. Sometimes I’d stretch my imagination to spin a larger than life yarn, and then work hard to convince the listener. I would act out parts and sing songs; I was a Hindi film personified. I once remember telling my classmate that the hair on my head was a wig. I convinced him by spinning a yarn about shaving my head because I’m learning Sanskrit in a gurukool every summer vacation. He bought it.
How did the creativity bug bite you?
We lived in a joint family during my early years. There was a lot of fighting between the people in the house and I went through a phase where I needed more attention than I got. I discovered that a creative talent was always rewarded with attention. So I began winning prizes for elocution, craft and dramatics.
When did you realize that you are different from the other kids?
Never. Most kids experiment with all sorts of ideas in school. I did too. If I didn’t get along with some, I got along with some others. I always had my gang of buddies.
Were you ever bullied in school?
Not really. I had a teacher who was a bully. She would use the cane liberally and then make the kids drop their pants as punishment. She was a witch, but she was also made fun off. Kids always exact their revenge.
When did you fall in love for the first time and how was it?
It was at an inter school singing competition while at boarding. I was in an all boys school and this girls’ school participated too. She sang ‘Tumko dekha to yeh khayal aaaya’ and I was mesmerised. I ran back stage to find her, but she disappeared into a large group. 2 weeks later, I met her at church, during our Sunday school outing. Then we chatted every Sunday. I think it was love. I also had this huge crush on my house captain. He was really good looking but he was also kind. I was feeling unwell during the march-past once and I tripped over and bled. He carried me all the way to the nurse. That must have been love too.
Did you have your fair share of heartbreaks? How did you overcome them?
By immersing myself into work. By creating something new. I think that your relationship with yourself is far more nourishing than one with someone else. Yes, you must love another with all your heart, and if you lose that person, you must cry for the loss. But after you hit rock bottom, you should start climbing up again. You take the learnings of that relationship along. I have no regrets. Each person, each experience, has strengthened my character.
When did you decide to support the LGBTQ cause and where do you think it will lead in the future?
There is no LGBTQ cause for me. There is my truth and my right to live my truth with dignity. When I see people applying confused, outdated morals on my choices, I feel very angry. I speak out because I want them to leave me and my truth alone. If every person is truly living his dream, he won’t bother about what another is doing with his life. It’s only because our society is filled with unfulfilled desires and dreams that there is resentment. And while I understand their resentment, I also believe they have no right to meddle with my life.
Do you see any hope of getting the 377 Act scrapped anytime sooner?
Yes. Hope is all we have, and we must never give up. As long as we are not hurting another, resenting another, we are good. We must live out truth and do it with pride. The more we remain hidden, the more that people will imagine weird ideas about us. Most people are not bad, they are just ignorant. That’s why we must be ourselves before them, so they can see that we are not some alien creatures from another planet. When they see that our hearts are the same, our dreams are the same, our problems are the same; they won’t dwell on the difference of orientation. Your sexuality after all is just one part of your personality.
Is India ready to accept same-sex unions? How is the vibe amongst your colleagues and general people around?
You have to first accept yourself. The more you hide, shy away from your truth, cover up who you are; the more people mirror your fears. Live as you are. Let the staggering numbers show. Let society see that you are not ashamed. You may say, how does one do that, when homosexuality is still considered a crime? Yes, all sex outside the desire to procreate is considered a crime, but doesn’t that make everyone a criminal. Even those that indulge in some harmless oral pleasure?
But just being gay, outside your bedroom, is no crime. As long as you’re not fornicating on the floor of your family dinner party, there is nothing to be afraid of!If you want change, then stop fearing the ignorant. They will slowly understand that a large chunk of society chooses differently and that variety is ok!
Would you being in the movie field help you to educate the society about equal rights through your creative work?
Yes. If you look at my filmography, especially in the last 6-7 years, all the films I’ve been associated with have highlighted an important social issue. ‘Jalpari’ addressed female infanticide, ‘Shahid’ was about how our justice system was being abused to push a communal agenda. ‘Citylights’ was about the migrant problem of the big city, while ‘Aligarh’ addresses deep rooted homophobia in our society. Each film has made some kind of impact and these films go far beyond opening weekend numbers. They are recorded testimonials of our times; they can be referenced for generations to come.
We have seen many people attempt LGBTQ subjects in movies but none of them find acceptance amongst the audience. Why is it so?
That’s not true. Many have found patronage. Like I said, these films might not find large numbers on the opening weekend, but they have excellent lifetime earnings. ‘Aligarh’ for example premiered in Busan and then London Film festival in October 2015! It has continuously been a talking point since then. It’s release in India, last Feb, came with its share of buzz and debate. And today, it’s still making waves. It gets written about after people watch it on DVD, on downloads, in festivals and at seminars in colleges. The film continues will continue to live till its subject is not dealt with properly by society. The numbers in its lifetime are staggering. Munch more than the commercial potboiler that made noise and money in the first week of release, but wasn’t ever remembered again.
We see many straight individuals who support LGBTQ movement on their social profiles but have also seen them laughing at gay characters while watching a LGBTQ-themed movie. Do you feel we are a society of hypocrites? (I have seen people laughing and calling names while watching Aligarh as well as I Am when Rahul Bose is smooching Arjun Mathur in the movie)
That’s because they are uncomfortable with their own feelings. They think if they don’t berate it or laugh at it, they will appear gay. It’s ignorance and nothing else. I don’t feel bad about it. More people are watching and saluting gay characters in the mainstream today. More leading men are gay today than ever before. I am genuinely hopeful.
There are so many closeted gays who get married because of societal pressures. What advice do you want to give them?
Don’t advise them. Don’t lecture them. They did what they thought was right. Many gay men live a lonely, singular existence. They often succumb to a heterosexual marriage out of a desperate need for a companion. Sadly, they will understand themselves in due course that short term escapes help no one. On our part, we need to do our bit. We need to form healthy companionship of our choice. Once we have accepted ourselves, we need to work towards gaining acceptance from our families and our loved ones. Once we have that, we are a force. Those that are considering marriage will then be able to see that there is an empowered community that they could choose instead. Change yourself, don’t bother about the others.
What are your upcoming projects? Any dreams of becoming a director in future?
I’m writing Simran for Hansal. It’s stars the talented Kangana Ranaut. I’m also writing a semi autobiographical film that I might direct. Let’s see. One step at a time.
It was a pleasure having you on our chat series, I wish you all the luck in all your future creative endeavors (smiles)
Thank you (smiles)