“ S i s a k,” written, directed and produced by Faraz Mariam Arif Ansari, is a one-of-a-kind love story set in the environs of the Mumbai, India, local train system. The silent short says more without words than it ever could with them.
“People need to feel what you are feeling, and when there are no words to support the visuals, by default, the audience wants to get into the minds of the characters, we observe them more closely, we feel more closely, and that, indirectly, makes the loudest roar that the community needs,” Ansari said in his director’s statement.
Before “Sisak” shows at the film festival on Wednesday night (limited seating available!), the filmmaker answered a few questions about how “Sisak” made it to the big screen and is making an impact around the world.
Q: What does the word “sisak” mean?
A: Sisak is an Urdu word. It means “a cry that is stuck inside the chest, unable to manifest itself aloud for the fear of the world and self.” Since a literal English translation wasn’t possible for it, I decided to call it “Sisak” regardless.
Q: Where did you get the idea for your film?
A: December 2013. It was a cold winter’s day. I was sitting in a cafe in Nainital, a hill station in the Himalayas, where I was staying then, while directing a Broadway-styled musical for a school and writing the screenplay of what was to be my debut feature film – a mainstream love story of a boy and a girl. Then something on the television caught my attention. The news was on. After decriminalizing homosexuality in 2009, the Supreme Court of India had stepped back from the judgment on Section 377, thereby re-criminalizing homosexuality.
As I sat helpless in the corner of the cafe, watching the news, I went numb. I was scared… for myself, my friends who had courageously come out of the closet – some of them had even gone public with their relationships. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to hide, I wanted to run. But I was unable to do anything. I felt helpless. And in that state of helplessness, I opened up a draft on my laptop and started to write a story. A story that would end up being India’s first silent LGBTQ love story.
Q: Was it more difficult to tell A’s and Z’s story without speech?
A: The love story of the countless A’s and Z’s that live across the world, where love between people of the same sex is a crime, are always speechless. They struggle to find a voice, they struggle to find the courage to love. Homosexuality in India, where I reside, is also a crime and a punishable offense under Section 377 by the Constitution of India. Imagine this: in the world’s largest democracy, love is a crime. Now read that statement again. The dogmas that the society and the laws thrusts upon individuals have left a generation of queer individuals in silence and sans love.
Isn’t love a human right? When one is dealing with such a background for a love story that is to be told to silence, every step is a challenge, especially when it has to be portrayed cinematically, aesthetically and universally, so that dialogues begin, so that people see the core of it, that love is love is love is love and it can never, ever be a crime.
On a personal level, this film took me three years to make. I wrote it in 2013, then the wait to find the courage to make it. As a filmmmaker, no film school teaches you to make a silent film. I remember, back in university, our first direction exercise was a dialogue interacting between two individuals. Shooting a silent film and that too without permission on the world’s busiest transport, is a nightmare. Thankfully, I was blessed with a fabulous team that helped me immensely in taking it to the next level.
Q: What effect do you hope the film has on the audience?
A: We, as a generation, have forgotten how to love. “Sisak” is a gentle reminder for us to love fearlessly, fully, without guilt and without restraint, unconditionally and completely.
Love is love is love is love ❤️ We can’t wait to share this beautiful film! Learn more about “Sisak” via the film’s Facebook page.
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