Sensitive Portrayal

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Dear Bhargava’ a short film released on YouTube, is getting a lot of attention for its deft handling of the feelings of a gay. This film won ‘The best LGBTQ Short’ (film award) in the Zero Degree Film Contest announced recently. The film was officially selected for screening at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Fest (CSIFF).

The psyche towards gay rights may not have freely opened up in India, but nothing stopped a creative youngster from making a film on LGBT rights to share his observations in society. “There aren’t many films in Kannada that provide a moral passport to think that such emotional leanings are natural too and that one can set sail in life without being apologetic,” says 30-year-old Ramnath Shanbhag, who has attempted his first directorial venture ‘Dear Bhargava.’ The film mirrors the hero’s disturbed state of mind while not finding ways to open up his dilemma of being gay and fears rejection in society, including his parents.

The 16-minutes short film in Kannada https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfirbnELGMg released on YouTube recently takes across the message with dignified poise. It has dialogues too by the young professional Ramnath, who, after completing B-Com in Seshadripuarm College in 2012, pursued his passion for writing dialogues and lyrics for songs in Sandalwood. “I also did radio shows and jingles. I never miss writing poetry even as I enjoy my solitude at midnight,” says Ramnath, who works as senior associate compliance with Amazon in Bangalore.

Points that make ‘Dear Bhargava’ crisp and succinct are its clarity of dialogues and the simple, uncomplicated approach to the subject. There are only three characters – husband-wife and son Bhargava who is gay – to take the narrative across, and the entire movie revolves around the camera panning the kitchen and bedroom of the house. That’s it.

“The film is a description of how a young man finds it a thorny road to make himself be part of society, the uncomfortable revolution within him is not allowing him to herald his stance of being a gay. All of us know the stigma attached to such subjects, but surprisingly ‘Dear Bhargava’ has opened up to a lot of encouraging reviews from friends and well-wishers in the film industry,” says a happy Ramnath on the phone.

Consider the simple screenplay. On the 10th day of his father’s demise, Bhargava is left emotionless like a stone and doesn’t ‘feel normal’ as he is seen being mentored by Habicoins, the online mental health service (who has sponsored the film too). For Bhargava, overwhelmed with fighting an inner turmoil, his father’s death too is yet to sink in. Distressed, anxious, and uneasy, he tells his boyfriend on the phone that ‘he will get back when he feels better.’ Meanwhile, the council continues, “It’s not that we have answers for all your queries, but long journeys in life have to start with the first step naturally, and you need to begin your journey today.”

The story proceeds with Bhargava’s mother, who is flooded with memories of her husband while cherishing recollections that friends have shared. “You have nothing to share, as a son, Bhargava?” she is surprised before requesting him to “just distribute” all the things that belonged to her husband.

What flags off as the focal point in the film is the letter Bhargava gets hold of from his father’s cupboard, addressed to him that was never shared!  Realizing his son’s emotional mayhem and his clogged state of mind that never attempted to break open, the father’s exhort in the letter “Helko Bhargava Helko” (Just express it Bhargava) stands a poignant moment for Bhargava, as he realizes that his dad was all-out for making things easier for him to handle. That is when Bhargava realizes that the “lock has to be opened” to make way and converse with his mother before it is too late.

The way Bhargava visualizes his father sitting next to him and “talking the letter” to him and how the letter ‘opens up for people’s interpretations is what makes it a subtle take on the small screen. The understated dialogues speak volumes when the film closes with a weeping Bhargava who approaches his mother in the kitchen to say, “I should have told this to dad, but now, amma, I need to share something with you.”

How did Mahesh Bung react while he was offered Bhargava’s role? “Mahesh has acted in many lead roles, including his recent appearance in Arvind Kamat’s thriller, ‘Arishadvarga,’ and is very entrepreneurial by nature. He also runs the Rasayana Coffee Bar at Basaveshwaranagar.  Mahesh did not have any reservations but was keen to take up the meaningful role,” says Ramnath. Talking of Sunder Veena and Aruna Balaraj, who have acted as Bhargava’s parents, Ramnath is happy the two well-known, seasoned actors, after seeing the script were open to being part of it. “While we were looking for sponsors, we pitched Meghana Harikumar, Gagan Tallam, and Somaya Palecanda of Balcony Stories, and PrimeApes Studios were ready to collaborate,” adds Ramnath.

The calm and melodic instrumental score provided by Udith Harithas fills up the much-needed pauses that heighten the effect of the storyline. The message from Sunitha K Mani, a psychotherapist from Habicoins, quite sums up the intent: “It does not matter if you are straight, gay or a trans person, what matters is that you show up as the real you.  And Habicoins is a platform where we encourage people to show up as the real person that they want to be.”

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