Real stories on the reel

Real stories on the reel


Real stories on the reel

One film that stood out in KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival was Anjali. Although it didn’t win awards, the interpretation of Anjali’s sheer beauty, her grit to survive and claim her gender identity, was what caught the attention of viewers.

Anjali, a transgender-turned-model, is from Nepal, and bringing her live to the celluloid is Mohan Rai, a Nepalese filmmaker. Through his production house, Middleway Films, he has made more than 25 films, and is happily adding more numbers to this kitty. Mohan has made it his life’s mission to make films based on contemporary, social and developmental issues.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview with him:

Why did you select Anjali as the topic for your film, and how difficult was it to shoot the film?

To be honest, a friend of mine inspired me to take up this theme. Although it was not difficult to shoot the film, there were times when the external environment was not convenient for filming. Moreover, there were people who did not want to be filmed, even though they were relevant to the subject. This apart, the protagonist of the film, Anjali, did not want some aspects of her life and story to be shot. This perhaps proves how difficult it still is for people to be open about their sexual preferences in Nepal, even for someone who has decided to come out publicly.

Is the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) community in Nepal recognised?

Nepal is one of the most liberal countries in the world in terms of general treatment towards LGBTI. But this, I think, is not because people are more tolerant towards LGBTI per se, but because the Nepali society in general, is liberal and tolerant. Recently, there have been some changes in the legislation, ensuring some rights for the LGBTI. However, there still is negative perception towards them. Even though they might not be directly and openly victimised, discrimination does exist, especially with regard to employment. I think lack of employment is the most serious problem faced by the LGBTI community in Nepal.

Do you think one can generate awareness about the LGBTI community through films and newspapers?

The media has been quite supportive. For example, Anjali got a good coverage. Nepali filmmakers — of both films and documentaries — have taken up the transgender theme in the past. This has helped the LGBTI community to some extent. However, it is difficult to gauge the success of the media in creating awareness. The film raised the profile of Anjali, apart from generating awareness on the theme. Despite this, she continues to face discrimination. This has also affected her modelling career.

What are your future plans? Do you want to continue making films on the same subject?

I try to take up pressing social issues, including those of the LGBTI, and tackle it through the medium of film. Currently, I am making a documentary film on Rinku Thakur, an 18-year-old girl in a town called Birgunj in the southern part of Nepal. This is a case of an unsuccessful forced marriage. But Rinku took a bold decision to object to the marriage. She chose to leave her home, and is now living in a women’s shelter and pursuing her education. Forced marriages are a serious problem in our country.

My next project will be on a movement called ‘Thaha’ (to know) that once existed in Nepal. It was started by a man called Rup Chandra Bista. He insisted that the general public had the right to access information about the decisions that affected their lives, and demand for it from the government and politicians. The interesting part is that the Thaha movement existed years before the concept of RTI came into being, not only in Nepal, but elsewhere also.