shubh mangal zyada saavdhan

There are lots of visuals in the trailer of writer and filmmaker Hitesh Kewalya’s Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan that may feel alien to many because we’re not used to seeing them in a mainstream Hindi film. Let’s start with the kiss between the two male leads, played by Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar. Also, when have we seen a leading mainstream star wear a rainbow cape to fight homophobia? Kewalya has traversed tricky terrain before. He wrote a funny, family entertainer about erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan in 2017. We speak to him about the new challenges that is sequel brought with it:   

Most Hindi films that have dealt with homosexuality in the past have had an urban setting. What changes when you set your story in a small town? 

The reason why we decided to set it in a small town and not the upper economic strata is so that we can broad-base our story. We wanted to normalise the fact that homosexuality is not limited to cities or a certain socio-economic strata. We wanted to reach a larger section of society so that more people look at it and feel ‘this is our mileu’. It’s important for people to connect. It was difficult to do this as a writer because your language and the way you portray your characters change when you change the milieu. But it was also necessary, I would say. 

It was a hard subject to write, edit, act, direct…. everything. But it was not difficult in terms of acceptance but to make sure it’s done tastefully. 

When you wrote Shubh Mangal Saavdhan I remember you said you had to get through the entire film without using the term erectile dysfunction. What was the challenge in this film? 

Yes, in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan the challenge was not to say erectile dysfunction because no one would understand it. And we couldn’t even say it in Hindi where the word is ‘sheegra patan’. No one would get that either. Here, it was actually about usuing the word gay. When people use it in a sentence, you’ll see their tone suddenly changing while saying the word gay. They whisper it. The pitch comes down. You’re embarrassed to say it. So we tried to say that it is okay to say it. The first scene of the trailer is exactly that. The character saying ‘tumne kab decide kiya ki yeh banoge’. And Ayushmann says ‘yeh nahi kehte, gay kehte hai’. Now when people discuss this scene they will say gay openly and that’s how you normalise it.

How do you research a film like this? Did you speak to a lot of families? 

My research was more of an emotional research. Nobody can deny that we have grown up in a homophobic world. We have been conditioned with homophobic ideas. I only realised this when I got out of home and went to a design school. I have friends who have come out to their families. I have grown up in a world where even a straight guy is supposed to be a certain way. We’re often told why do you cry like a girl… that is also homophobic in a certain sense. It’s saying that because I’ve been born in a certain gender I can’t do things that are associated with another gender. Whereas crying is a universal emotion. So to figure out women empowerment we need to talk to the men and figure out what they’ve been taught all their lives. So I should call it human empowerment which is gender free. 

I have run my script through many friends. One of my good friends is a board member in Humsafar Trust. I have lots of friends who have come out to their families. I showed the script to them. 

Were there other films that you referenced? 

I generally read  a lot of articles by parents and people who have come out. I watched lots of films too whose name I can’t recall right now. The biggest thing a writer can do is put himself in the shoes of the people involved – whether it’s the child struggling to come out or the parents. So when you get into those shoes, things start becoming clearer especially to people like us.  

shubh mangal zyada saavdhan kiss

It was amazing to see that there’s a kiss in the trailer. We rarely see intimacy in a mainstream film dealing with homosexuality. 

It was important to show. When we’re saying everyone is the same, it is very important that the references we have of a hetero couple showing intimacy are equally applicable in a same-sex relationship. Now, of course, we have to understand the audience. The film is not about the sensuality of the kiss but a way of expressing love. The actor’s also come into it – how they portray the character, what expressions they should use. 

Was it a tough scene to direct?

It was a hard subject to write, edit, act, direct…. everything. But it was not difficult in terms of acceptance but to make sure it’s done tastefully. 

shubh mangal

What went into creating Ayushmann’s look – you’ve given him a nose ring

We all sat and decided on the look together. He wanted to do something different. I was in favour of a nose pin and he wanted a nose ring and Ayushmann won. We worked a lot on the haircut and the colours too. It was important for me not to fall into any stereotypical representation in terms of costume and look. That was my biggest obstacle for the full film – how do we avoid stereotypes in every form. Gay men are as unique and different as any other person and that’s what I want to come through. I didn’t want to be insensitive at all and I took great pains to maintain that while writing.

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