Faraz Arif Ansari’s 20-minute short film Sisak is being billed as India’s first silent queer love story. “It is a first,” the 30-year-old director asserted. “The idea was quite simply about glances that are exchanged in silence in Mumbai’s local train compartments.” Those furtive glances carry more than the burden of unspoken feelings.
Sonam Kapoor launched the trailer of Sisak on January 30 on Twitter. The film will be shown at various film festivals and is expected to be premiered at Cannes in May. Ansari has worked as an assistant director on Amole Gupte’s Stanley Ka Dabba (2011) and Sonam Nair’s Gippi (2013). Sisak is Ansari’s second short film. His first short, Siberia (2015), was about a woman looking for an imaginary rat in her house.
Sisak follows two young men (Jitin Gulati and Dhruv Singhal) who take the same local train home every day. As the film progresses, the shy and reticent men gravitate close enough to say something to each other, but they cannot muster the courage to open their mouths. The story can be seen as an allegory on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises homosexual sex.
Ansari drew inspiration from his own experiences to write and direct the film. He was going through a rough patch in his personal life and career in 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down a previous Delhi Court order in 2009 that decriminalised the colonial-era law. Ansari could see parallels in both situations.
The Supreme Court order sent India’s queer community back into the closet. Meanwhile, Ansari was unable to make any headway with his film script, which was rejected by several productions companies.
“I had written a feature script with a gay lead character,” Ansari said. “I took it to every production house and they showed interest but did not have the wherewithal to make it. I decided to make Sisak the way I wanted to. It is a personal film but also a political statement about the law that silences the community.”
Since funding was a problem, Ansari used his savings to produce the short film. The post-production expense was crowdsourced through the online platform Wishberry. After Ansari completed Sisak, shooting guerrilla style in Mumbai’s local trains, he managed another coup: Sonam Kapoor decided to promote the film.
“She is a great role model and a staunch supporter of the LGBTQ community,” Ansari said. “Her social media clout will ensure that the film gets more eyeballs and trigger a dialogue.” He hopes that Sisak will be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. “I have received feelers from the organisers and am keeping my fingers crossed,” he said.֙