“I want people to live a life of dignity”


Sukanya Mahata talks to Onir regarding his upcoming movie I AM

How is the promotion of I AM going?

Well, it is very hectic. We are going to so many places and meeting so many people. The movie is releasing on 29th April. It comprises of four short movies about four people, Omar, Afia, Abhimanyu and Megha. It touches subjects like sperm donation, child sexual abuse and homosexuality. The film has actors like Nandita Das, Juhi Chawla, Manisha Koirala, Sanjay Suri and Rahul Bose.

What was the inspiration behind the movie?

Rabindranath Tagore once wrote these immortal lines:

“Where the mind is without fear,

And the head is held high…

…Into that heaven of freedom, my father,

Let my country awake”

I have such a vision for my country. I want people to live a life of dignity and take decisions without fear. My protagonists share a common dream – a desire to regain their lives, to regain an identity which has been taken away from them; a desire to be accepted, as who they are; a desire to be heard.

How was the experience of having more than 400 people contribute and produce the movie?

The funding of this movie was actually an experiment. I did not want funding from traditional sources. Instead, I knew there are people who want to get involved with movies like I AM by giving their time or money. I wanted to see if it could be possible. So, I put up a Facebook post asking people to donate money or volunteer for the movie. Within one and a half months, we had all we needed. We made a movie where all our volunteers were co owners of the movie. There was active participation from all the people.

Of all the characters in I AM, which character do you relate to, the most?

I relate to two of my characters. First is Megha, a kashmiri pandit, who happens to return to her home after a long time and feels lost. There is an identity crisis as there is nothing she can relate to. Same is the story of my life. I used to live in Bhutan, but because of the political conditions prevailing at that time, I had to shift to India. It has been 18 years, and I have not seen my home since.
The second character I can relate to is Omar, who is gay. He has this deep sense of anguish at not being accepted and recognized. He does not have any rights and is discriminated against in his own country.

You have lived in Bhutan, India and Russia. How has each place influenced you?

It was a very crucial time in Russia’s history, when I was there. The economy was suffering from a huge depression. A very strong economy crumbled just like that. People were very poor and the disparity of income between the rich and the poor was unimaginably high. It was a time of crisis for the mighty eastern bloc. Democracy did not prove to be very good for Russia.

How was your recent visit to The London Asian Film festival and Sydney Film Festivals?

The 13th London Asian Film Festival proved to be really special for us. I AM won the best film award and Juhi won the best actress award for the movie. It was very heartening to see our movie being appreciated.

We toured New Zealand and all over Australia when we went in for the Sydney film festival. We got a great response for the screenings. A major milestone was the distributors agreeing to release the film on the same day as in India, which they usually don’t do for small movies.