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ZEE5’s latest original offering 377 Ab Normal released on Tuesday. Starring Maanvi Gagroo, Shashank Arora, Preetika Rao, Zeeshan Ayub and Tanvi Azmi among others, the film has been directed by Faruk Kabir.
Inspired by real-life stories, the film chronicles the journey of different individuals who fought for LGBTQ rights, and how their efforts led to the Supreme Court decriminalising section 377 in a historic judgment last year.
Director Faruk Kabir, who has films like Allah Ke Banday and The Awakening to his credit, recently spoke exclusively to indianexpress.com about his latest project.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How and when did you develop the idea of making 377 Ab Normal?
Even though I am a heterosexual man, when the judgment passed last year, it brought me immense joy. That day, we took a big step to becoming a more inclusive and sensitive nation. While I have not been part of the fight, I was inspired. And when I started studying more about it, I realised that it had a cinematic journey to it. The fight has been going on for ages now. But I must add, the film is not about the legal but the personal journey of the protagonists.
Recently at FICCI Frames 2019, filmmaker Onir spoke about how mainstream male actors are still insecure about playing homosexual characters. Do you feel it is true and did you face any issues casting for the film?
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I think it is quite right. There is still a slight sense of apprehension among actors to play gay characters. My film is about normal people who happen to be homosexuals. But thankfully all the actors that I worked with were very cooperative. It would be definitely more empowering if the stories are told in the mainstream. But what is most important is telling it in an engaging manner so that it reaches out to more people.
#377अबNormal thankU @keshav_suri for being inspiring,pioneering & above all kind.@tarunkatial for empowering me 2 make this film @ZEE5India pic.twitter.com/76AL7ZiCPg
— faruk kabir (@faruk_kabir) March 16, 2019
Homosexuality is still not discussed openly. What was your take on it while growing up?
Luckily, I have had a very liberal upbringing. My mother had a lot of gay friends, whom I have grown up interacting with. Till date, and I give that credit to my parents, we have never had discussions on religion or sexuality at the dining table. As a society, it is high time our education system should be focussing on topics that help children deal with real-life issues once they grow up.
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As a filmmaker, do you vie for presenting good stories or being commercially successful?
I really believe that films should make money. But if we look at the trend now, it is content that gets the audience to the theaters. Films like Stree, Badhai Ho may not look commercial on papers but they ended up making a profit for the makers. On the other hand, big-budget commercial films couldn’t do that. So today, there is a very thin line drawn between what is commercial and what is not.
You have assisted filmmakers like Aziz Mirza and Santosh Sivan. It is a common notion that ADs are just fetching coffee on sets. What has been your experience and does assisting really help polish your craft?
There are instances when as assistant directors you get to learn about the technicalities of cinema. But I must add that you need to be curious and want to learn. Nobody will come and teach you. One has to look around and learn themselves. A film is not made in limbo, it is a collaborative experience.
I have already done three seasons of Shocker for Hotstar. There is another series Marry Me, Stranger, that I worked on. Also, there is a feature with Kumar Mangat, which I cannot really talk about at the moment.