The short film shows two young people meeting in an arranged marriage setup and having an unusual conversation in the most natural way.

Watch Oruvanukku Oruthi a Tamil short film explores queer identities
Flix Short film Monday, June 24, 2019 - 18:37

It is 2019 and Tamil cinema is still very cautious about discussing gender identities on screen, let alone talk about queer love. Web series, indie and short films seem to be faring much better in exploring such subjects and the latest to open up a discussion on this topic is director Vimal Santiagu’s short film Oruvanukku Oruththi? released just in time for the Pride month.

The 17-minute short is set primarily inside a well-lit room, and records a conversation between two characters who talk about themselves, their life and love, brilliantly portrayed by Regin Rose and Tamilarasi Anandhavalli. In an earlier scene, we catch a glimpse of their lives - two adults uninterested in marriage, forced into meeting each other for the sake of their parents. 

Typical of an arranged marriage scenario, the two meet each other quite reluctantly at first but go on to discover a surprising connection between each other. They talk about fitting in, the fear of missing out, of choices and consequences and of the ones that got away and the entire dialogue between the two has not one dull moment in it.

When it comes to writing dialogues for films, it is crucial to keep in mind the flow, to not lose track with sloppy lines. In Oruvanukku Oruththi?, one can say that the most interesting point is when the characters reveal their sexual orientation to each other and the conversation only gets more interesting from there.

Mostly, when there’s a disclosure of sexuality, we’ve only seen the character who's listening react in disbelief or disappointment. For instance, in America Mappillai, a Tamil short web series, when the man comes out as gay to the woman he’s asked to go out with by his family, she laughs and asks if he’s joking. Similar reactions have been used to discuss self-disclosure of sexuality on screen.

In Oruvanukku Oruththi? there’s a clear digression from this setting. When Regin’s character tells Tamilarasi’s character that he’s bisexual, she’s encouraged to tell him that she’s gender fluid. No one’s laughing, no one’s disappointed. Because both are on the same page about not conforming to such norms.

Vimal, the show’s director, says the story was written based on real experiences shared to him by friends and family. “It has a mix of many people in it. These were experiences shared with me by my friends and relatives,” he says.

A mechanical engineer with an MBA in marketing and a freelance writer, Vimal wrote the story almost two years ago in 2017 but waited until he found the right cast. “If casting went wrong, chances of the entire film failing were high. I wasn’t satisfied with a few and a few others I wanted didn’t want to do the role. And so I waited,” says Vimal.

This was until he got introduced to Regin. “I really liked his performance in Ullangai Nellikani. This role too was similar, he was perfect for it,” he adds.

Ullangai Nellikani (The Gooseberry In Her Palm) by Arikarasudhan was loosely based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short story The Woman Who Came at Six O’ Clock. It starred Regin as a librarian and Semmalar Annam as a mysterious woman.

Vimal, who now runs a digital agency along with his brother, is a self-taught director. “I have a keen interest in films and I’ve always wanted to direct my own script. I’ve been meaning to make a short film and that’s when I met Dinesh (cinematographer) and we decided to work on Oruvanukku Oruththi? first,” he explains. Dinesh K Babu has also worked on cinematography for the feature film 8 Thottakkal.

When Vimal wrote the script, he had the Telugu film Pelli Choopulu in mind. “I wanted to make a pleasant film like Pelli Choopulu. The story I had in mind was very simple,” he adds.

Vimal feels that the subject of sexuality is seldom discussed. “Adolescents tend to be confused when it comes to sexuality. But they need to be told that it is okay to be confused. We’ve discussed different types of love in it and this is one way to tell them that it’s very natural to feel differently. I’ve also deliberately discussed a bit about the anger that comes from unrequited love, even if it didn't go well with the flow. That too is a natural feeling and the point is to mature and move on,” he points out.

Dinesh, Vimal and Regin with team

Tamilarasi's character speaks of the anger she experienced when her girlfriend married a man. "I was so angry, I wanted to die. I wanted to kill her. But then I matured and moved on," she says.

Does he also feel that Oruvanukku Oruththi? will open up a discussion in society? “I know it hasn't reached many people but when we do discuss it, we will know where we stand as a society,” he adds. While Vimal has received lots of positive feedback for the short film so far, there are a few comments slamming the subject of the conversation between the couple.

However, Vimal is confident that the short film will largely not be misunderstood or called controversial for what it discusses. “I don’t think that would be the case. World cinema has exposed many to diverse portrayals. This is a very natural feeling and isn't shocking anymore,” he says. 

The short film ends on an open note with an appropriate song by Kaber Vasuki, "Nee Vetkam Kori". And we, as viewers, are left to question ‘Oruvanuku Oruthi?’ (One man, one woman?) too.

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