Chennai-based independent filmmaker Lokesh, currently working on a crowd-funded gay-themed Hindi film titled "My Son Is Gay", says the city is still "conservative" and that is why "I didn't make the film in Tamil".
"Since it's a gay-themed film, I don't think everybody would accept it. Except for places like Bombay and Bangalore where we have LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) film festivals, I feel audiences in other places of the country are close-minded," Lokesh told IANS in an interview.
In a recent online poll conducted by Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, the most gay-friendly city in the country is said to be Bombay with 73.4 percent votes, followed by Delhi and Bangalore with 10.7 percent 6.3 percent, respectively.
Chennai was voted the least gay-friendly city with 3.9 percent votes.
Is this why he decided to make the film in Hindi?
"It's tough to do a gay-themed film in Chennai or any social issues for that matter vis-a-vis other cities because Chennai is still conservative in so many ways which is not helping filmmakers. It is still close-minded. This is also one of the reasons why I didn't make the film in Tamil," he said.
"My Son is Gay", about an emotional relationship between a mother and her gay son, features southern actress Anupama Kumar and gay activist Nakshatra Bagwe in the lead. Both of them are working for free.
"It's a very touching journey of a mother who is unable to accept the fact that her son is gay. It's a positive film about accepting people as they are," Lokesh said.
Contrary to the notion only gay individuals make gay-themed films, Lokesh is making the film to spread awareness about the LGBT community.
"You don't have to be a gay to do gay-themed films. It's really weird when people ask questions about your sexuality when you do films on LGBT issues.
"I'm doing it to create a positive awareness for those who have no idea about LGBT community," he said.
"You don't have to be a girl to portray girl power in films, likewise you don't have to be a gay to express their emotions on screen," added Lokesh.
Lokesh has finished 25 percent of the film with the help of "our main sponsor Anil Saxena and our styling sponsor Shahnaz Hussain Starlight Herbal Salon".
To complete the rest of the movie, the director will raise funds via crowd-funding and he plans "to start the campaign soon".
"A script like this could be made into a commercial film, but due to budget constraints we had to opt for crowd-funding. Since I'm an independent filmmaker, I also realised that we don't have sufficient funds to market the film even if we make it on our own," he said.
Does he feel audiences will accept his film?
"My target audience will be the film festival crowd. Since I attend film festivals, I realised this market is bigger than theatrical release, which I will only use as plan B. Even if my film manages to release in theatres, it will be only for the niche audience," he said.
"With so much of competition from other films week after week, how many days do you think my film will run in cinemas even if it gets released? So, we want to take it to as many big film festivals as possible and then see if we could find a distributor for theatrical release," he added.
He is currently busy preparing the trailer for the crowd-funding campaign.
"We are editing a trailer from the 25 percent we have shot so far for the campaign. I'm really thankful to Anupama, Nakshatra and Rekha, who has agreed to subtitle my film free of cost. I would also thank my sponsors for supporting me," he added.
(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)