Sahela's Raghuvir Joshi is happy ‘mainstream Indian films talk about’ queer love | Bollywood - Hindustan Times

Sahela director Raghuvir Joshi is happy ‘mainstream Indian films talk about’ queer love

Nov 03, 2023 06:55 AM IST

Director Raghuvir Joshi talks about his new film Sahela, and how the film about ‘a gay man and his wife’ was inspired by his own lived experiences.

Filmmaker Raghuvir Joshi recently saw the screening of his film Sahela at Jio MAMI Film Festival in Mumbai. Before turning a director, he has worked in films such as Zero Dark Thirty and The Reluctant Fundamentalist. In an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times, Raghuvir talks about differences in Indian and international film sets, representation of LGBTQIA+ community in mainstream films, and much more. (Also read| Agra director Kanu Behl: 'It is not a matter of the audience's taste or need')

Antonio Aakeel and Anula Navlekar in a still from Sahela.
Antonio Aakeel and Anula Navlekar in a still from Sahela.

India premiere of Sahela

Recalling the premiere of Sahela in Mumbai, Raghuvir said, “The premiere screening was amazing. To be honest, I did not expect such an overwhelming response. Apparently, we were the top three films of the day so I am very chuffed. The most heart-warming response was from Sheeba Chaddha (who features in Sahela). That was because she saw the film for the first time at the screening. She broke down and could not talk when she was asked about it at the session after the screening. Coming from her, it meant the world to me. I look up to her as an artist and her validation anchored me.”

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Sahela is based on Raghuvir Joshi's own experiences

Talking about the idea of the film, Raghuvir said that it is inspired by his own lived experience of discovering his sexuality after marriage. “It was something I explored in my short film, Yaman, as well. I had to express the story. Alongwith the complexity of sexuality and the discovery, I also understood a very different connotation of love through the process. It is not the conventional love you find in a conventional partner, but a very different form of love that I discovered through the process of discovering myself.”

Asked if there are any plans for a theatrical release of Sahela, Raghuvir said, “That would be awesome. I really hope we can get a theatrical release. We are in conversations with potential distributors, and even digital platforms. I hope people can watch it in theatres.”

Asked if he is apprehensive about a wider acceptance beyond the festival circles, the filmmaker said, “Not apprehensive to be honest. It is not just a story of sexuality but also of love - love for family, and love for partner but in a very different sense. The film is named Sahela which means ‘companion’. It is a very universal story and is not just about sexuality. It is also about family, and culture. Of course, sexulaity is a massive part of it. Honestly, we would never take risks as filmmakers if we start thinking about acceptance. If a story consumes me enough, if I am excited about it.. Then I must approach it with honesty, and generally such a film translates to a wider audience.”

LGBTQIA+ in Indian films

Asked about the representation of LGBTQIA+ community in mainstream Indian films, Raghuvir said, “In the past few years, the mainstream Indian films have changed in terms of queer films. We have seen even mainstream films talk about this. So, I am glad there is larger collective voice gaining momentum. Obviously, we do need more..But what sets Sahela apart, is the angle of love. It is about a very different connotation of love. I hope films like Sahela contribute to larger conversation of LGBTQIA+ films in the mainstream.” The filmmaker then added that his film is “an intimate and tender love story between a gay man and his wife”.

Indian films versus international films

Raghuvir worked in many films across the globe as assistant director before he took up the task of directing a film on his own five years ago. Before directing the short film Yaman in 2019, he had worked in a few Hollywood and Bollywood hits as an AD.

Recalling the pros and cons of working in Indian films, Raghuvir said, “I love the fact that there are so many people we can employ on the set of an Indian film. That contributes to the economy. And, the jugaad you can do on Indian film sets, you cannot do it elsewhere. See, you need to be resourceful while working on films. You know, because of all the financial and time restrains. Now, what Indians can do despite lack of resources is incredible. It sets them apart and it is always very fun.”

Talking about international projects, the filmmaker lauded their focus on safety measures. “Films shot internationally have a clear approach towards safety and that is amazing. Safety is paramount on international sets. There are protocols - and not just for action scenes - there are protocols that everybody, even the directors and actors need to follow. Health and safety officers are always involved and there is always an ambulance on film set.”

He added, “I think that is amazing, because often accidents happen on sets. We hear so many times of lives lost because due diligence was not taken care of or because of negligence. The health and safety measures is an important thing an international film set provide.”

Raghuvir Joshi's work

Raghuvir worked on many Hollywood films as an assistant director before he turned to direction. He worked on hits including Zero Dark Thirty, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Hotel Mumbai. He also worked in a few Bollywood films as an AD. These include Cocktail and Knock Out. In 2019, Raghuvir made a short film titled Yaman. His new feature film, Sahela, was recently screened in Mumbai.

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    Sweta Kaushal has 13 years of experience covering Bollywood and regional movies, TV shows, national current affairs and social issues.

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