In Sridhar Rangayan’s Evening Shadows, a young man from Mumbai goes to his home in a small town in Karnataka to tell his family that he is gay. Things do not go as planned.
“I came out of the closet, but I feel like I locked my mother in one,” says Karthik (Devansh Doshi), setting the stage for what the Evening Shadows is really about – a mother’s journey of coming to terms with her son’s sexuality. The film stars Mona Ambegaonkar as Karthik’s mother.
“Over the last few years, we have been focusing more on the LGBTQ community and the parents have been left behind a bit,” Rangayan told Scroll.in. “The idea is to say that when you come out of the closet, you push your parent into a closet. Because you give out your secret to them and they do not know what to do with it. The film is about how the parent understands a son.”
With a cast that includes Ananth Mahadevan, Arpit Chaudhary, Yamini Singh, Abhay Kulkarni, Veena Nair and Disha Thakur, Evening Shadows had its world premiere at the Mardi Gras Film Festival in Australia in 2018. The film will be screened in select cinemas on January 11 through Vkaao, the on-demand theatre service run by PVR Cinemas where moviegoers can request for screenings of titles of their choice.
Rangayan, whose directing credits include Pink Mirror (2006) and Yours Emotionally (2007), is also a gay rights activist and founded the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, which is now in its ninth year. Evening Shadows draws from the experiences of many gay men, including Rangayan. “There was a bit of drama in my life, but not as much as it is in the film,” he said.
The film explores the conflicting viewpoints of two generations. “Many parents from small towns do not have resources or support structure to understand this,” he said. “For them it becomes like a sudden bombshell when their children come out. The film is not about the son coming out, but the mother coming out of the woman and standing up for herself and her son.”
Even though homosexuality has been decriminalised by the Supreme Court through its landmark 2018 verdict that read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the road to acceptance will be a long one, Rangayan said. “I am curious to see how mass audiences connect to the film,” he added. “When we showed the film at the Bangalore Film Festival, there was a lot of discomfort, especially among men, where some walked out. It will be interesting to see how people react to it.”
The film wants to take the conversation on gay rights beyond Section 337. “People usually equate being gay to sex,” he said. “We wanted to demystify that. Being gay is about a larger connotation of identity. I always feel that the Section 377 is just one part of a problem that is about the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. For me the greater problem is patriarchy. It is much more of a limiting barrier. I think that it is the root issue of acceptance.”
Rangayan began writing Evening Shadows in 2009, but a shortage of funds put the brakes on the project for more than seven years. The film finally went into production in 2016 after raising money through crowdfunding. But once the film was ready, finding distributors proved to be a challenge in a market predominantly driven by star power and big money, Rangayan said. “Traditional distribution did not work for this film at all,” he said. “I thought distributors would be even more open with the film because it is topical. But that did not happen. The commerciality of a film is very different from topicality.”
The film’s unique distribution model could be a game-changer for independent cinema, Rangayan hoped. “We are not looking at the whole idea of one Friday release in 200 theatres, where actually nobody goes to watch it,” the filmmaker said. “We are looking at a snowballing idea where we have a limited number screenings and see how the audiences take it forward.”