After facing a lot of delays due to censor board certification followed by the pandemic, the Anshuman Jha and Zareen Khan-starrer, Hum Bhi Akele Tum Bhi Akele, finally released on Disney+ Hotstar on May 9. The film follows the story of a boy and a girl, who are both homosexuals and embark on a sudden road trip. The film is directed by Harish Vyas who, in an exclusive conversation with Spotboye.com, gets candid about the response to the film, the challenges of getting away from the homosexual stereotypes in Bollywood and more. Read excerpts from the interview:
How has the response to the film been?
The response has been overwhelming and even much better than expected. It was a different concept that we thought not many people would relate with, but they did. For any film, it’s really important for the audience to relate and connect to it. If the film touches you, it stays with you. The film crossed two million streams in the first week and the credit goes to Disney+ Hotstar and also Anshuman.
Bollywood has kind of struggled with the portrayal of the LGBTQ community. How challenging was it for you to steer clear of the stereotypes and break out of the mould?
I was very much clear from the beginning about what I wanted. I have a lot of friends who belong to this community but don’t fall into the stereotypical tropes. Even my co-writer Susan has had such friends, who go about their life without revealing their truth. Sadly, people have kind of separated a genre for such films. They do a lot of debates about equality but when it comes to representation, they would show them differently. So, I had very early on decided that if I ever write a character from the LGBTQ community, I would show them as any other person like you and me. They will sing songs, run on the streets and do everything other actors and actresses do in their films.
Our film industry has been projecting the community differently. There are certain emotions about them that should be highlighted but until we normalise them, how would they be treated normally. In our film, the beauty is that you’d forget about their orientation as they look like a normal couple. That was purposefully done and we had decided on the first day that in this film, both Anshuman and Zareen will be like any other actor and actress in a Hindi film. I had even told Anshuman not to change his body language for this character, and just let his body loose. Zareen was naturally a bit tomboyish, so my main focus was on her emotions. She hadn’t done such a film before and by the second half she did brilliantly in the emotional scenes.
How difficult was it for you to find a producer for this film?
Anshuman, who is also a producer on the film, wasn’t the first person I went to. Before him, I went to about four to five producers. Everyone would say that it is a very nice and unique concept but then would go silent. Even some close people that I knew liked the concept but no one wanted to come forward. When I told the story to Anshuman during a cab ride, he said we will make this film. I had narrated the story to him thinking of him as an actor and didn’t know that he would produce it too. But he foresaw the potential in the film.
Anshuman had mentioned that during your research for the film, you had interacted with a lot of people from the LGBTQ community. What was that experience like?
I have had friends from the community, and earlier I used to be a teacher and had a student who is gay. He belongs to the fashion industry and I met him for this film. He even came on the set and when I shared the film’s idea with him, he liked it a lot but realised the difficulty of making it as well. So, like that, we connected to a lot of people. We didn’t just think of the idea and made the film. We wanted honesty and sincerity in the film and it was there.
We knew we were dealing with a subject that could hurt people, but we didn’t want to hurt the LGBTQ community even unknowingly. We were concerned but when our film had a premiere in New York, around 60-70 people in the audience were from the LGBTQ community and the response from them was great. There were a few lines through which we tried toa put forward their issues and emotions, like when Zareen’s father in the film says, “Kisi ladke ke saath bhaag jati to samaj ko jawaab to de sakte the” or when the lead pair are talking and saying, “kya hum criminals se bhi gaye guzre hain.”
How was Anshuman different as a producer and as an actor?
Anshuman worked only as an actor on set. The best thing about him is that he is a very clear person. We sorted everything before going on floors including the budget as it was a small film. We discussed that the subject wasn’t that normal and he’d have to take workshops to get into the skin. I asked him to meet me as the character and not as a producer and he agreed. He never asked me about how the shoot was going or about the budget, all that we discussed was the performance and the scenes.
And how was it working with Zareen?
After watching Zareen work, I realised that she is one of the finest persons I have ever met. There were no tantrums on set from her side and she was very polite and obedient. Even though she is a known name, we asked her to audition, she was up for it. During shoot, there were times when she’d have prior commitments to fulfil, but she always went after the shoot ended and would take a flight back after her event to come back on set the very next day on time. The best part of her was that she was always smiling.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I am working on two projects. One is a small budget film on an emotional father-son story that starts in Bhopal and ends in Banaras. There is one more film with the working title Singh vs Dubey. I have also worked on a web series that has gone to a big production house and we are just waiting for the reply on that.
Image Source: Instagram/harishvyas22, imdb
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