Exploring same-sex love - All about look, smile and touch

Arun Fulara’s short film 'Sunday' is about a middle-aged, closeted, homosexual man leading a dual life. He has a crush on his neighbourhood barber boy and visits the salon just to be able to see him

Exploring same-sex love - All about look, smile and touch
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Garima Sadhwani

Arun Fulara’s short film Sunday is about Kamble, a middle-aged, closeted, homosexual man leading a dual life. He has a crush on his neighbourhood barber boy, Jaan, and visits the salon every Sunday just to be able to see him. Interestingly, the idea for this film struck Fulara in a salon, as he felt a sensation when a barber touched his cheek. He wondered what that touch could have meant to a gay man who was actually attracted to the barber. Having dealt with loneliness on a personal level, Fulara knew he had to bring this story out. “The film really took form there,” he says.

But he didn’t want to complicate the film with an elaborate plot or too many dialogues. He simply wanted to make the audience feel what Kamble sees and feels in that moment when he is on that chair. And so, he credits the actor, Shrikant Yadav, for conveying the most complex emotions through the most subtle expressions.

The main focus while shooting was on the cinematography. Fulara wanted to show Kamble’s excitement through “lingering looks and stolen glances”. He wanted to paint a picture that was similar to when a teenager falls in love and is too shy to express his feelings.

A romantic at heart, Fulara had to take inspiration from the old Hindi movies and songs. He talks about the romanticism in the film: Kamble is placed in between the background chatter of a man talking to his lover, and a child playing a loud and irritating video game. And yet, all he can see is Jaan.

Fascinatingly, Fulara’s original idea was to have the song “Sagar kinare dil ye pukare” play in the background as Kamble is getting shaved, but he couldn’t get the rights to use the song.

Besides old Hindi songs, another influence for Sunday was European cinema aesthetics, where a character is explored only through observation and minimal dialogue. “A film then becomes much more austere and purer,” says Fulara.

When all was set and done, Fulara expected the film to resonate with a certain kind of crowd—those who are cinema-literate, have watched a lot of international cinema and been to film festivals. But despite its nuance and subtlety, the film surpassed expectations. Fulara says that he has received feedback from the audience telling him that “the film says a lot without actually saying too much and remains intimate and true to the character”.

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The engineer-turned-MBA-turned filmmaker believes in the power of cinema and storytelling. According to him filmmakers and animators have been able to garner empathy even for toys, cars, and characters like Shrek.

However, with an urge to explore under-represented characters, Fulara took a few chances. For instance, there’s an apparent age difference between Kamble and Jaan and the social spaces they come from. The barber is also a Muslim, but the religion and caste of the characters are kept solely in the background.

“There is an awareness that the kind of stories that we see in our films do not do justice to a large section of our society,” says Fulara. So, his protagonist is not privileged, does not come from the class or sexual or age bracket that is in power.

Fulara adds that while researching for the film, he did meet people who had to make “compromises”, couldn’t come out of the closet and ended up in heterosexual marriages. But the film is not just about sexuality. According to Fulara, it’s about those few moments of intimacy, of touch, every Sunday, that Kamble lacks in his normal life. This is also the reason why Fulara hasn’t categorized the film as belonging to any specific genre.

One of the most stellar scenes in the film is when Kamble returns home and touches his moustache while looking in the mirror. As it turns out, it was never scripted and was an improvisation by the actor. The scene almost signifies an internal battle between upholding his masculinity and finally embracing himself.

While this scene does offer the audience an insight into Kamble’s regular life, that is all we ever get to see outside the salon. Fulara explains that he did not want to build up the character and talk about his life and family outside of the salon, because that would have taken away from what we see in those moments when he’s sitting on the chair.

Currently, Fulara is also working on his second short film, My Mother’s Girlfriend where he explores a romantic relationship between two elderly working-class women, and what happens when the son of one of them finds out about it.

Starkly opposite to Sunday, it will have more dialogue and will come with an interesting plotline. My Mother’s Girlfriend won the Kashish QDrishti Film Grant last year and will be ready in May to premiere at Kashish Film Festival. Additionally, Fulara is also working on a documentary he shot in Kumaon last year, a few feature and short-film scripts. He’s also pitching his own debut feature film My Home is in the Hills to producers.

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