‘Evening Shadows’ review: A didactic ‘coming-out’ saga

One tone: The film lacks complexity  

Stories of minorities are oftentimes burdened with an agenda, which if not dealt smartly with, can make a film didactic. Sridhar Rangayan’s Evening Shadows succumbs to the innate didacticism of queer narratives, where advocacy precedes the artwork. The intentions may be well-placed but the outcome is a series of loud and tired cliches, which permeate the film so deeply that the subject of homosexuality appears to be the only “original” aspect of it.

The film fulfils all stereotypes of a ‘coming-out’ drama set in a small town in South India. There’s the photographer son, Kartik (Devansh Doshi), who is “sensitive and enjoys art and cooking” (according to his mother), parents who are archetypes of a middle-aged Indian couple, father (Ananth Narayan Mahadevan) who embodies all facets of toxic masculinity, sacrosanct mother (Mona Ambegaonkar), a lecherous and closeted uncle and a city-bred boyfriend in Mumbai who works with a corporation. The characters are so one-dimensional and representative of multiple schools of thought that there is no room for complexity. The filmmaker leaves no scope for questions and shades, making the film seem like a self-appointed spokesperson for the Indian queer community.

Evening Shadows
  • Director: Sridhar Rangayan
  • Cast: Mona Ambegaonkar, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, Devansh Doshi
  • Story: Kartik returns home from Mumbai after four years and reveals to his mother that he is gay.

The crux of the film — the dramatic ‘coming-out’ scene — happens in a coracle in the middle of the lake. Karthik goes on a day-trip with his mother and confides in her while they are boating. Her reaction is over-the-top (almost like she has a cardiac arrest) as the background music blares. In accompaniment, the filmmaker zooms out and displays a variety of long shots, against the setting sun. If the scene were to be any more dramatic, it would entail the small boat capsizing — which is a possibility based on the mother’s reaction.

The craft of the film is as hackneyed and amateurish as its narrative, if not more. From overused drone-shots, melodramatic reactionary music, soap-opera style reaction shots, corny dialogues like “main tumhe meri mann ki ankhon se roz dekti hoon (I see you from my heart every day)”, one-tone reactions from the father (“Pssh, nonsense!”) to television coverage of Supreme Court’s 2013 verdict on Section 377 to depict oppression, the film abstains from any form of subtlety and prefers to wallow in exaggeration.

It’s imperative to tell ‘coming-out’ stories, perhaps more so in a country where homosexuality is often brushed under the carpet. We need queer representation, characters, stories and experiences. But Rangayan’s film, with an intent to educate, enforces a single story with so much conviction that it risks preaching to the choir, leaving little room for nuance. Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie famously warned about the dangers of a single story: the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 8:25:48 PM |

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