It’s the platform (OTT) that’s the master, everything else is inconsequential,” says National Award-winner filmmaker Onir, refuting the belief that OTT is all about independent cinema.
“Earlier, studios would talk about box office, but it’s eyeballs now. The passion to make films independently it’s not driven by eyeballs or box office. But, because those are stories are needed to be told. And sometimes the audience is not ready for it but that is okay. Sometimes, you have to lead. In 1996, Fire happened, in 2005, Chandni Bar, also I made My Brotherhellip; Nikhil (on AIDS awareness), Chandni Bar or I Am. All these movies happened without platforms. I want to see a Fire being backed in 2021 by a platform.”
Along with Richa Chadha, he will be judging the content in the short film category at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. In fact, he doesn’t like the word ‘judge’. In his words, “I am rather looking at the list of beautiful stories, empowering one of the filmmakers whose story would make an impact.”
Having judged many awards in the past, this one in particular excited him for it has a subject, Modern Slavery and Equality.
“It’s a problem of the world, not just one country. The humiliation, prosecution, exploitation and oppression we suffer are often derivatives of some or the other kind of inequality, namely gender, caste or sexual preferences. And talking about it through any medium is the first step towards change,” he says.
Widows of Vrindavan
How daunting a task is it to be in the jury? He says, “Not really. Being a person who is out and proud to be a gay, opinions don’t matter anymore.” Having made an anthology, I Am, which won him awards as well as rewards, Onir doesn’t differentiate does not care whether a story is two minutes or two hours long. “Stories are stories. The only fact is either it touches you or it doesn’t.”
Having said that, he believes that there’s hardly any source of revenue for short filmmakers. Most short filmmakers do not negotiate as they feel content that their films are being showcased. “Which is a wrong approach,” he says, adding that “they should find a medium where they are not exploited financially. Because it’s about sustenance.”
Onir likes to mix his work and travel. A travel Vlogger on the sides, with double masks, hand sanitisers and sprays in place, from Sundarbans to Kachchh to Kashmir to Leh, Ladakh to Madhya Pradesh to Chhattisgarh, he has covered much distance since August last year. His tips for travelers out there, “Don’t try to take the city along with you when you travel to the hills or oceans away from the hustle and bustle. Why drink booze and play loud music in a place like Rishikesh? Be considerate about the environment, local lifestyle and culture.”
Pedro Almodoacute;var’s film Pain and Glory made Onir cry. He is moved by filmmakers such as Pedro or Ritwik Ghatak. “When I was growing up, there was no reference of the LGBTQIA anywhere. I remember Hanif Kureishi visited University in Kolkata when I was a student there and showcased his film, My Beautiful Laundrette. As I watched it, I was like, ‘Oh My God, that’s my story and my life’. I feel when people say that ‘you don’t need to be out’, it’s wrong. I believe anyone who is empowered, needs to be out unless you are an extremely selfish person.” He refers to Indian athlete Dutee Chand’s coming out story which has inspired many others to come out with the truth.