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Crossing the lines: A short film highlights a boy’s quest for gender identity

Daaravtha by Nishant Roy Bombarde is a brave film on gender identity, made despite steep odds. Vindication came in the form of two National Awards this year

HT48HRS_Special Updated: May 26, 2016 19:25 IST
Soma Das
nishant roy bombarde

A still from Daaravtha

Daaravtha by Nishant Roy Bombarde is a brave film on gender identity, made despite several hurdles. Vindication came in the form of two National Awards this year

In one of the scenes of the Marathi film, Daaravtha (The Threshold, 2015), Pankaj, the adolescent protagonist, is having a conversation with his mother as she’s dressing up. He tells her, “Ma, women get to wear such beautiful, colourful saris… but for men, [it’s] the same old boring clothes.” His mother playfully tells him to be born as a woman in his next birth. Since he helps with household chores, she doesn’t miss not having a daughter, she adds. “But I’m not a girl,” sighs Pankaj.

As you might have guessed, the 30-minute short film explores Pankaj’s struggles to express himself in a world with rigid notions of what it means to be a boy. Directed and produced by Mumbai-based filmmaker Nishant Roy Bombarde (33), the film won two National awards (for producer and director) in the non-feature category. It will now be screened at Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2016, this Sunday.

Bombarde was born in the Gondia district of Maharashtra, he studied engineering in Jalgaon, and mass communication at Symbiosis, Pune, before moving to Mumbai.

While the film isn’t biographical, Bombarde admits that the events depicted are based on real incidents. “A male acquaintance had long hair and used to do female parts in plays. His father had a problem with it. During a fight, he told his father that this is what he is like, and he needs to deal with it. That was the germ of the film,” he says.

A still from the short film

While Bombarde wrote the initial script “overnight” in December, 2013, it took him two years to write the final draft and manage production on a shoestring budget of Rs 5 lakh. Even then, Bombarde had to deal with producers backing out and technical problems.

Winning the National Award comes as vindication. Recounting the initial reaction on winning the award, he says, “After the call, I jumped like a child for a while. Winning doesn’t suddenly make you more creative, but it turns heads and makes people take you seriously.” Now, he is busy with two period feature films, and has plans to take Daaravtha to other film festivals.

Watch this

Daaravtha will be screened on May 29, 2.30pm as part of the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival (May 25-29)
At Liberty Cinema, Marine Lines
Visit: mumbai queerfest.com