September 16, 2020
22-year-old Riya Kulkarni was utterly horrified when she learned that a close friend had been forced by his “well-educated parents” to undergo shock treatment as “gay cure”. She was naively under the impression that educated families were liberal, understanding and accepting of their children, only to be proven wrong. However, this propelled her to step out and discuss homosexuality with adults to understand what they thought and why. The reality, she soon discovered, was far different.
Frustrated with how some viewed homosexuality as a sin, Kulkarni decided to make a short film about it. Titled ‘It’s Ok Pammi!’, the short film is about parents finding it hard to accept their LGBT children and being constantly worried about the society’s perception of their children. Speaking to FSoG from Mumbai, Kulkarni, a graduate from Srishti Institute of Arts, Design and Technology, says, “One hardly gets to know what parents go through. It is important to understand and educate them.”
Understanding parents of LGBTs
Set in an urban, educated Punjabi household, the short film depicts a mother’s struggle to accept her lesbian daughter. Pammi, the mother, is depressed about her daughter refusing to marry boys. It is quite chaotic for her – she gets nightmares and wakes up anxiously in the middle of the night; talks to her sister every now and then, searches potential grooms for her daughter, and pleads with her every single day to tie knots. All this only to be accepted by the society.
Kulkarni says it is the portrayal of what she discovered during her research. “Despite there being so much awareness about LGBT, many parents still believe it is abnormal. They are concerned about them and their kids not finding acceptance in the society,” she says, while adding, “Parents then try to find baseless solutions for it such as getting married.”
Searching for an accepting cast
With a skimpy budget, signing up actors for the short film was quite a task for Kulkarni, a fresh graduate from Srishti School of Arts, Design and Technology, Bangalore. To add to that, she was clear about bringing on board only those actors who were inclusive and accepting. Kulkarni says her decision was worth it: “Auditions gave me a great insight into different viewpoints and stories from neighborhoods and immediate families, all of which helped me shape the narrative further.”
An open-ended conclusion
While the short film is garnering tremendous response, critics have questioned why it has no definite conclusion to it. Kulkarni says it was a conscious creative decision to keep the short film non-conclusive. “The awareness and sensitivity has to be achieved through stories that show more than tell. I let it be non-conclusive so that the film gets the point across without putting it directly,” she explains. “I refrained from dubbing any perspective as wrong or right as I wanted my viewers to decide what they wanted to learn from it,” she adds.