It’s tricky to make a movie about the queer community—even if the filmmakers responsible are members of the tribe. There’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t nature to the audience’s response. But once in a while, a movie is made which wins the hearts of critics as well as the audience.
Naughty Amelia Jane has been on a winning spree since its release and has won more than 50 national and international awards till now. The film touches an extremely sensitive topic in an extremely innocent manner. At its core, it is a simple love story of two young girls eventually torn apart by their families.
Fifty Shades Of Gay did an exclusive interview with the director of the movie, Risheeta Agrawal who took inspiration from her own life to make this film.
Congratulations on winning so many awards for Naughty Amelia Jane. What drove you to make the film on this particular topic?
Writers will always tell you – “write about what you know”. Each story they write is always influenced by a certain degree of personal experience and your environment around you. The same goes for me.
For our readers who are yet to watch the Naughty Amelia Jane, why should they?
Films made around the LGBTQ topic are usually not ones you can watch with your entire family and feel entirely normal about, even now. Naughty Amelia Jane is different and you can enjoy it with your friends and family alike. My grandparents, as well as my younger cousins, have all sat in the same room and enjoyed this love story of two young girls.
Do you think your film has made a difference in terms of openly discussing LGBT issues between the heterosexual members of society?
It definitely has for my family. Every member including my extended family has watched this film and congratulated me, which was nice. And hopefully, it’s maybe done the same for a few others as well. I wouldn’t know yet but I honestly do hope so.
Who was your biggest support system while filming this project?
There were 3 people who honestly made this film happen for me. My mother and my brother who funded this film – no questions asked, which was a dream. And Yagmur Misirli, who’s also the AD of the film and my best friend who doubled up as anything I needed throughout the months of making this film. Without any one of them, this film would have never seen the light of day.
How different are your family and their take on homosexuality from Amelia’s family?
In my younger years, before this film, I was deluded by the idea that it might be a struggle to accept me, as it is for so many other families to accept a gay child. But as it turned out, I’m actually one of the lucky ones to have gotten a family who accepted me wholly and entirely. So I guess, my family is the opposite of the ones you see in the film.
What were the challenges you faced to convert the script into a fully fledged movie?
Well, everything. I was in film school when I made this film, so obviously budgets were ridiculously tight. My entire cast and crew including myself were all amateurs with little or no film experience. I was in Prague at the time, so language was a huge barrier as well.
We were restricted to only 3 days of filming and honestly, most of the time, I didn’t know what I was doing – but I kept doing it anyway. And somehow here I am, a year later with the film on Amazon Prime with over 70 awards and film festival selections under its belt. It’s honestly been crazy, to say the least.
There’s a Wes Anderson touch in the film, with regards to the visuals. Is it intentional?
I love his style of storytelling. I have grown up watching and loving his films so they tend to at times heavily influence my way of writing and imagining. This was me taking his style and trying to put my personal spin on it. If it landed right, that is for people who watch the film to decide.
Any message for those who are struggling to embrace their true identities?
The internal struggle is real for anyone different than the majority. I guess this is more for the ones around – be kind if nothing else.
Do you have any more upcoming projects that we should look out for?
I own a production house called EO2 Films, a concern of EO2 Event & Films – which keeps me pretty busy directing and producing brand films but there certainly are a few more stories brewing – so let’s see!
How do you think using 50 Shades Of Gay as a platform to spread the message will help Naughty Amelia Jane?
50 Shades of Gay is a platform with immense credibility it reaches out to a lot of people both in and beyond our community. It has done such great work and I am so happy that my film is being featured on it. Gives me a certain degree of validation!