Mandira Nayar

NEW DELHI: The Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) is giving filmmakers a lesson on gender and sexuality. Expanding the boundaries of the frame to include issues that most mainstream television usually leave out of their picture, PSBT is holding a two-day "Gender Sexuality'' workshop that began here on Monday.

Part of a project that PSBT is involved with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the idea is to expose filmmakers and encourage them to make their own films dealing with these issues. PSBT hopes to be able to commission 30 independent films to talk about their own truth.

"The project is about explaining the brave new world out there. Commercial television is about eyeballs, but PSBT has the space for the nuances in these issues. You don't have to show eroticism to talk about it. The idea is to encourage filmmakers to have their own vision,'' says PSBT managing trustee Rajiv Mehrotra.

Tackling these issues for the first time in a substantial manner, the workshop has brought together experts in the subjects as well as a whole bunch of documentary filmmakers.

From the age-old debates on feminism about the politics of bodies, dressing and the way women are viewed and represented to the big problem of female foeticide facing India and sexual reproductive rights, the workshop gives filmmakers an opportunity to assimilate different dimensions to gender.

Apart from dealing with the gender issue, PSBT is also talking about the issues of identity revolving round the marginalised communities of gays and lesbians. While the Government might be unwilling to come out of the closet on these issues, PBST is willing to at least talk about reality. It might be too early for India to produce a "Brokeback Mountain'', but it is about the possibility of offering space to talk about real issues.

With most of the filmmakers at the workshop "new" to the world of "reel", the workshop is also about giving them a chance to take the leap to the camera. The workshop not only gives them an insight into the complex issues with data and views by experts but also aims to give them some basic tips about filmmaking.

"The project will not only include these 30 films but also provide a study aid with the films so that people can carry the debate further. The agenda is to move beyond the passive viewing of the film so that there is an engagement with film,'' adds Mr. Mehrotra.

Finally passing on the baton to the audience to move beyond, PSBT will also have a book to go with each film so that the viewer can read more about the issue. "There will also be a manual with the film that will give people points on how to take the discussion further,'' he says.