“The Word Within a Word, Unable to speak a Word” is the evocation that flared on the screen as the much-anticipated film opened, Sisak one of the most talked and scrutinized LGBTQIA film of this year in India finally made its debut in City of Joy. Like any festival or event, Calcutta absorbs its differences without a wink and celebrates them without any reservation. Sisak- which means silent sobbing, did make many sob around the world for last couple of months.
The trailer of Sisak was all it took for people to get intrigued, a silent short film on the love between two humans, who happen to be men. After reading multiple articles and interview about the film and director, curious I was. A handful of tweets were negative about the conceptualization; few LGBT institutions were cross about the casting and rainbow sheeps’ complained that the characterization was catering to the non-queer and diminishing the voices of effeminate men and non-masculine queer males. One can’t make them all happy, though it's funny that internalized hetero-normativity is one of the biggest challenges within Queer Community and Stereotypicalisation of Queer is the biggest challenge outside.
Any Rainbow event around the world means an amalgamation of colourful humans, ideas, and smiles of comradeship, no matter what the political scenario is. And Amra Odbhuth Café did not disappoint me, like its name it is Odbhuth, special in a nice way, a rickety building painted right, well decorated with pinches of wall doodles scattered here and there, queer art displayed, fairy lights, posters of game changing LGBTQIA films from around the globe, mats, cushions and a cat. A perfect setting for the one who has nowhere to be, an ideal recluse for the queer.
We all settled down, all comfortable and cozy my friend and me, with our director Faraz Ansari and others, and began our twenty-minute long film. How do you perceive a film that’s quarter of a feature film, and has no dialogue but has used music and other sounds to fill the vacancy?
As I watched, I concentrated on the metaphors, and the metaphors were spot on because Twenty Minutes later Faraz Ansari was explaining his use of props. We can call Sisak a sequential film without dialogues. It is definitely, not a silent film, the music served the purpose of presenting the inner yelling and screaming of the protagonists. The camera primarily jump-cuts between the hesitant legs in churidar, the nervous hand with the silver ring, the leather sling bags. Eventually, we see a young man standing near the entrance of the local train. Soon he becomes more nervous when the object of desire with a handsome beard, rushes in and seats inside.
From there on Sisak becomes a narrative of emotional progression with minimal physical involvement. A quick smile of relief, a deliberate movement, peeping while pretend-reading, nervous stares, pants and gasping. These are signs of love, but both are unable to approach because they are restrained. One by his marriage, as his gold ring with diamond was under camera’s focus multiple time. And another was fear. In twenty minutes, we find the repetition of same actions, the nervous guy in kurta awaiting the married man in the train compartment. Their only solace is looking at each other, the closest these two men come together are near the exit of the train, where they are still unable to hold hands but try to envision each other with closed eyes.
Sisak is refreshing, though the story of these men ends in tragedy. Not the Tragedy of death, but the tragedy born of fear. Had the men got dialogues and taste of physical temptation like in Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh from Bombay Talkies, this story would have failed. Sisak does indeed do a silent cry on the platonic love of the Knight and the Lady, and the artist and the muse.
Ansari’s answer to my question on, how he managed to shoot on the local trains of Mumbai which seemed surprisingly empty- he played with the frames and wanted us to see that as the men grow closer, the outside world fades away hence it seemed the compartment was empty. Ironically in the climax, the characters are indeed alone but incapable of breaking away from their fears and are never securely isolated. Faraz has played with the colour synchronization, with dressing up the married man in extremely formal attire in the beginning and makes him drop one garment at a time to making him pant in an unbuttoned shirt in the finale. Has also attempted to put layers by adding a wedding ring, The Curious History of Love does prepare us for the climax, while our married man reads: South of the Border, West of the Sun, which ironically has an infidel husband for the protagonist.
Ansari informed us Dhruv Singhal was apricated in India while Jitin Gulati was appreciated outside motherland. My friend and I we didn’t find Dhruv impressive enough, his expressions ran between scared to paranoid, his body language was off beat especially when he is waiting for Gulati the married man to board the train. The constant shaking of his legs and digging nails into his arms looked forced and didn't appear to burn for love. Whereas Gulati did a wonderful work with his body language, his expressions were controlled and never let loose until the climax, his expressions flowered with the story. His inability to pull away his wedding ring was wonderfully shot. The background score needed better editing work, and in a silent movie silence just had a cameo.
Faraz also answered our queries and informed us of an incident that happened in Delhi airport, he found his film and his photograph were featured in a leading daily while awaiting his flight. After he informed his mother some random guy splattered a glass of water on him for making this film. His interaction in Christ college Bangalore opened with a student asking “What is LGBTQ?”
P.S- Sisak doesn’t enter the complexities of love and life of queer people and how it affects their loved ones and vice-versa. Sisak leaves the viewers at the beginning, where even hoping for love is criminal.
thanking you for bearing with me