Evening Shadows **
Starring: Mona Ambegaonkar, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan, Devansh Doshi, Arpit Chaudhary
Director: Sridhar Rangayan
While not the first LGBT Movie to be made in India, Evening Shadows was the first Indian LGBT Movie to have a cinema release in its native country after the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Mostly crowd-funded by its director, the film has arrived on Netflix in the UK following a successful run at festivals worldwide.
When Kartik (Doshi) returns to visit his family he arrives to find that his father (Mahadevan) has designs on him marrying a female friend from his childhood. When he refuses, the overbearing patriarch won’t let the issue drop. When Kartik tells his mother (Ambegaonkar) that he’s gay, she struggles to come to terms with this bombshell as she simply doesn’t understand how or why her son could be gay. Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of the legal battles that led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality recently, Kartik must deal with his own personal strife alongside those of his community.
In terms of breaking new ground on the international stage, there’s not much to report home about here, but within the context of where it was made, there’s no denying its significance. It’s a story about a mother’s love for her son and the importance of unconditional love, but unfortunately we’ve seen this story hundreds of times before. It’s genuinely fantastic to see a film that so unflinchingly explores LGBT themes so explicitly come from India, but for viewers in the UK it’s a bit of a trudge. Its most interesting elements – the exploration of its political context – are little more than background noise, which is a bit of a wasted opportunity to tell the rest of the world about the reality for LGBT People on the ground.
There are a handful of compelling scenes and the performances are fine, albeit melodramatic, but they rely on archetypal family roles, which leaves the characters feeling one dimensional. Its music, cinematography and production design feel like soap opera and altogether, this is a film that has assembled all its composite parts like a simple line drawing that the director has forgotten to colour in.
If you look back at films released soon after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Europe and the US, you see very similar films that aimed simply to educate audiences about LGBT people. The American A Very Natural Thing in 1974 basically spelled out “G-A-Y… I-S... O-K” to its audiences because that’s what the wider community needed to see, which is exactly what Evening Shadows is doing here. Which is OK, because that’s exactly what India and its diaspora needs right now.
OUT NOW ON NETFLIX.