India-born Deepa Mehta's A Funny Boy is Canada's Oscar Submission
Deepa Mehta's Funny Boy is Canada's offering for the Oscars nomination. This is the second time India-born Mehta has netted an Academy Award nod after Water in 2007. Both were nominated in the International Feature Film category. Funny Boy was picked from 11 submissions by various Canadian directors.
In a small note, Mehta said her movie “holds up the flag of inclusion, in a world tethering towards an abyss of the great divide.”
She should know all about this divide having suffered during her planned shoot in Varanasi of Water, which was the third in a trilogy – Fire and Earth being the first two. Mehta had everything wrapped up at Varanasi for a schedule of several days. The two lead actresses, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, playing Vrindavan widows, had their head tonsured, but radical political elements caused chaos, saying that the movie was against India's culture.
Seemed strange, for it was no secret how the widows lived – in a life bereft of any joy or comfort and in utter poverty. So, Mehta shot Water in Sri Lanka many months later with Lisa Ray and John Abraham.
Interestingly, Funny Boy was also filmed in the island nation. Set during the 1970s and the 1980s, it traces the sexual awakening of a boy, Arjie (essayed by Arush Nand and Brandon Ingram). His family, while treating him as someone “funny”, is dead against his interest in a male classmate.
Based on Shyam Selvadurai's 1994 novel with the same title, Funny Boy unfolds at a time when Sri Lanka was wracked by political tensions caused by the Tamil-Sinhalese civil war. The minority Tamils, led by Vellupillai Prabhakaran's Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, were demanding a separate homeland carved out of territories in the north and the east.
While his country had its loyalties split in a war that went on from 1983 to 2009, Arjie craves just the opposite, love and also acceptance of his sexual preference.
Funny Boy will open soon in select theatres, and begin streaming on Netflix from December 10.
Mehta added that what the world today needed most was love and compassion. “Funny Boy to me is about humanity and hope”.
Till date, over 25 countries have submitted their entries in the international category. The Academy will shortlist five from these of which one will be awarded the trophy. Last year 93 movies were in competition.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is author, commentator and movie critic)