Capturing the oft forgotten queer rural life: Mohan ra Madan, Sikkim's first LGBTQ+ short film
“It never occurred to me that I had brought him here not just to show him my little world, but to ask my little world to let him in, so that the place where I came to be alone on summer afternoons would get to know him, judge him, see if he fitted in, take him in, so that I might come back here and remember. Here I would come to escape the known world and seek another of my own invention: I was basically introducing him to my launchpad.” (Andre Aciman, “Call me by your name” 77)
One of the sub-themes that strikes a chord, if you are to witness the teaser for “Mohan Ra Madam”, a film based on the central theme of queer theory, challenging negative stereotypes surrounding the idea of queer love and its sociocultural bearing; is the concept of escape.
With Adarsh Pradhan and Nilesh Rai as lead actors and popular stand-up comedian Bkey Agarwal as director, Mohan ra Madan is an attempt to show people that queer relationships are not bound by cultural geography. "Most queer films are made with the urban populace in mind. That leads to a stereotypical perspective that only urban areas have a queer populace. No one wants to discuss those in the rural areas. Their problems are more serious because of their literacy rate and lack of awareness. People treat the community as if they are diseased. This is why we wanted to highlight queer stories from the rural area. We've shown what are the everyday problems that the community faces in this short film".
He adds, "Sikkim's filmmakers have made films raising awareness on drug abuse and human trafficking but the LGBTQ+ community's issue has been completely overlooked."
It would be injudicious to assume that the makers thoughtlessly included the scene; the two protagonists, Mohan and Madan, are pictured conversing while one suggests to the other that an “escape” to the city away from their home would be a good idea; without an intent.
While the term “escape” has been widely used, even exploited to a certain degree in today’s day and age, for a handful of the population in our little community, it is the only option.
Sikkim saw its first-ever Queer Pride Parade on January 27, 2019, four months after the Supreme Court’s verdict on 6 September 2018 decriminalising homosexuality. The verdict ruled that the application of Section 377 to consensual homosexual sex between adults was unconstitutional, “irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary”.
Lhamu Dukpa, the key organizer for the parade in his own words expressed, “We are celebrating decriminalisation of homosexuality for the first time in Sikkim, our main agenda is to make people aware about the emerging sexual terminologies, especially those who are underprivileged and live in the hinterland, in order to guide them and counsel them.” Lhamu is an active member of the Rainbow Hill Association. The organization which is based in Gangtok, Sikkim works for the rights of the LGBTQIA community campaign fighting for equality and acceptance.
While organizations and individuals like Lhamu Dukpa have left no stone unturned in bringing about a positive and reassuring change in the community, the status of legal security for the LGBTQ community within the state has almost been stagnant and ignored.
Whilst the situation in terms of legality seems almost sluggish in our state, Nepal has triumphed in identifying the significance of an individual’s right and security whereby the country will now be counting the LGBTQ population for the first time in their upcoming national census. This will allow equal and better allocation of government jobs and education to the minority groups. But most importantly, this will help establish their identity as a minority group in the country.
In an article posted by the Sikkim Chronicle written by Nitesh R Pradhan for the Summit Times, one would find it difficult to ignore the general sentiment of the interviewees and their response.
The article quotes an individual’s feedback reiterating that life for one as a ‘lesbian’ in a small town is difficult and lonely. She dreams of escaping to bigger and more ‘accepting’ cities like Mumbai or Delhi.
Another interviewee adds that his wish is to settle down with the man he loves but both would find it easier to leave the country in a few years and move to a country where they are accepted where individuals have the freedom of choice.
Fast forward to a little more than a year from the gargantuan Supreme court verdict back in 2018 and nothing much has changed in our state. To give voice to the efforts of the several LGBTQ organizations and individuals, the state ought to step in and build a freeway communication system linking all the fragmented institutions giving way to methodical networking. Only by coordinating and unifying it under a single banner with the help of resource investment will we be able to witness any substantial and positive change for the future of the LGBTQ community in our state.
Until then, it will be interesting to see how the audience reacts to this film that challenges the idea of fixed gender identities, sexual preferences, and all forms of ‘normality’. In the interim, we may substitute our studies and research with the response the film receives from the general public. This may in the meantime act as a measuring tape or a yardstick when statistics, studies and referencing are regrettably absent for the betterment of the society at large and have failed to stand by them. We can only hope that we’ve come far from our yesteryears and for a positive response. So long, we shall continue to see our sons and daughters seek refuge down yonder in search of hope, freedom and a place they may someday call “home”.
The author is Angela Bhutia, currently freelancing as an events decorator and events curator. She has worked closely with Artem as a contributor and marketing head.
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