Bombay Showcase

Crazy little thing called LOEV

LOEV is a deceptively simple yet nuanced and heartfelt take on the eternal relationship conundrum.  

Yet another promising young filmmaker gets set to make his presence felt at platform hitherto unexplored by Indian cinema; the SXSW (South By SouthWest film festival in Austin, Texas). SXSW celebrates “raw innovation and emerging talent with unique vision”, both behind and in front of the camera. A perfect home then for LOEV , a film that casts a simple, sensitive and refreshing eye at gay love.

“I associate SXSW with the cinema of Richard Linklater, Lena Dunham, Duplass Brothers and Andrew Haigh, who all had world premieres there,” says a very excited Sudhanshu Saria, LOEV ’s director. “It’s about character-driven, audience-friendly indies.”

LOEV’s world premiere happened at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia last November in the First Features competition section. SXSW marks its North American premiere and the film is also slated to play at the Mexican Guadalajara film festival in March.

LOEV takes the gay narrative in cinema, especially Indian cinema, a step forward. No stereotypical comic representations, no tales of persecution, violence and struggle either. There’s no talk of Section 377, no dwelling on the criminalisation of homosexuality. It’s just about three individuals in love with each other, individuals who just happen to be men. Saria says he didn’t want the film to be boxed in a typical gay zone: “I don’t want it to be looked at as an ‘Indian’ or a ‘queer’ or an ‘Indian queer’ film. I want it to be looked at as a movie.” He doesn’t even like to draw parallels with the classic, much-celebrated gay films like Brokeback Mountain and Milk . Even they were tragic. “I have been sick of all the gay tropes. I just wanted to make a love story, away from the overt gay politics,” he says.

Gay 2.0

He calls LOEV a post-gay film — Gay 2.0 — where sexual orientation is stated as a matter of fact and sexuality is something accepted rather than questioned or made a big deal of. It is about broken, flawed, morally ambiguous human beings, who could be of any sexual orientation, living anywhere, be it Mumbai or Boston. “For me, it was all about portraying things with dignity, that’s the biggest f*** you to the conventions and the system, it is the most subversive way to be.”

LOEV is a deceptively simple yet nuanced and heartfelt take on the eternal relationship conundrum. It’s about a journey, both physical and metaphorical, one that’s within and outside. It’s about the teasing, the waiting, the tantrums, the jealousies, the anger, confusion and complications, the arguments and fights. And also about the understanding, fragility and tenderness of underlying love. It is also about the more problematic, aggressive, violent aspects of relationships when love could become a violation. “I want it to be a potent Petri dish of discussions, something you process through the lens of your life.”

Hailing from a Marwari family living in Darjeeling, Saria did a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Photography and Visual Arts from Ithaca College, New York. He then worked as an entertainment executive in Los Angeles; handling acquisitions, development and distribution. His shorts have been shown at several international film festivals.

LOEV emerged from Saria’s own heartbreak, something he tried to deal with and resolve by writing.

The notes were taken down on an iPhone in a Ballygunge café in Kolkata and later fleshed out in Siliguri cafés. His feature writing and directing debut was made on an extremely tight budget. “There would have been no other way to do something like this,” he says. Some of the crew members even invested their salaries back into the production. The pitch, the long takes, the acting workshops, everything had been planned right down to the most minute detail. Unlikely alliances happened, like the good fortune of finding producers, actor Arfi Lamba, Katharina Suckale and Jasleen Marwah. “Sometimes, I wonder if they think I have conned them and they will curse me later,” he says, laughing.

But why make it in India after having trained in the US? His answer to that is, why not? “I decided to become a filmmaker after seeing Monsoon Wedding and decided to come to India to make LOEV after seeing English Vinglish . Ten years ago, my sensibility may not have matched but now a different kind of cinema is emerging here.”

Heartwarming performances

The relationship-driven film rests on some heartwarming performances from the three central protagonists. It’s sustained on the sexual tension and great chemistry they share with each other. Shiv Pandit (seen in FIR on TV and Shaitaan ) is older, all solidity and strength, Dhruv Ganesh (who tragically passed away recently due to tuberculosis without seeing the film; his parents were present at the Tallinn world premiere) is all tenderness and vulnerability and Siddharth Menon is bluster and flamboyance. The film has already secured theatrical deals in some territories around the world — Estonia, Germany, Poland, Italy and Taiwan — and now, it’s down to how they sell, distribute and exhibit it in India, a market more complicated than any other.

Indie Corner is our new, irregularly regular slot on anything to do with small, fresh, independent, experimental cinema. Do let us know of interesting developments, talent, films, trends that we could feature here on namrata.joshi

Its world premiere happened at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia last November in the First Features competition section

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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 11:53:03 PM |

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