National Award-winning filmmaker Onir is one of the jury members of the short film section of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne this year along with actress Richa Chadha. This year’s theme revolves around modern slavery and equality, which the filmmaker thinks has been a relevant issue for a long time now. Rather than feeling the pressure of being a jury member, the director is eagerly looking forward to watching various short films, and he says this particular medium not only brings special themes but it is also a platform for emerging filmmakers.
Elaborating on the importance of the theme, Onir said, “I think the theme is extremely relevant today. It has been relevant always because we as human beings have not addressed this horrific aspect of humanity where you impose, you take away the dignity, take away the human rights of other human beings through various ways. It could be forced labour, child labour, human trafficking, it could be silencing the rights of the LGBTQ community- it is a vast topic that needs to be addressed and spoken about. I am glad the festival decided on this as a theme."
Onir is currently working on the sequel of his anthology film I Am, titled We Are, which also has the theme of human rights and identity along with stories that celebrate queer life and queer love. On being asked of his struggles of telling a queer story, he explained, “In 2005 when I was making My Brother Nikhil, I was told it is before its time, in 2011 when I was making I Am, people said the same thing and in 2021 when I am trying to make We Are, I am still told that people are not really ready for this. I want to tell those people that the films are not before their time, they are behind the time."
“That is what is difficult because when I am making a film like this I want to be honest with the content. I want to tell the story in the purest form of what I feel is the truth and is the way the story should be told. And I do not like anyone telling me how to manipulate a story. I like being an independent filmmaker and I feel that becomes a problem because earlier it was box office and now it is eyeballs with platforms where everywhere there are people telling you what to do whether they are qualified to tell that," the National award-winning director added.
So what film in Bollywood does Onir feel comes close to representing the themes of modern slavery and inequality? “I feel Article 15 is important and interesting because it deals with something that is hardly represented in Indian cinema. Somewhere in that film, it was about representation and the way the (Dalit) community is oppressed. If I think of any film of recent times, I can only think of Article 15," concluded Onir.