It was the summer of 1999 in Toronto at my very first public screening of my film titled “sum total” that someone asked me what my next film project was. And I had barely formalized my ideas in my head but I spoke from my heart and spoke of this film about parents of gay and lesbian youth living in India. It had only been a year and a half since my mother had passed away and that feeling of regret of not having come out to her before she died was on my mind.
The following year I started graduate school at Temple University and began studying filmmaking. One of my professors asked me what kind of a film would I make if I were given $30,000. I responded with, “a documentary on parents of gay and lesbian youth living in India”. The idea stayed with me, and a couple of years later, I began contacting participants for the film.
Given the prevalence of Section 377 (a law criminalizing homosexuality) in India and the overall silence around the subject, it was not easy to find people who were willing to talk on camera about having a queer family member. I agreed to shoot the film, while maintaining people’s privacy. A year later, in 2005, I conducted some initial interviews with a number of parents in Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta, with a promise to return the following summer when I had raised some funds to shoot the film.
I had no idea what was in store for me as far as fundraising was concerned. I wrote grant proposals after grant proposals and sat like a pretzel with my fingers and arms and legs crossed. Every few weeks, I would get the routine letter of how promising the project sounded and how competitive the applicant pool was and how sorry they were for not being able to support me at the time. My friend Saadia sent me an email letting me know the Robert Giard Fellowship and urged me to apply. I wasn’t ready to give up and so I applied but to be honest, I wasn’t very hopeful after the collection of rejection letters. When the email arrived from CLAGS letting me know that I had received the Robert Giard Fellowship, I was beyond thrilled. I had finally received the support I needed to get the project off the ground. This was a film that took me 11 years to complete from the time the idea first came to me. It’s been a long journey, both for me, and the film. The project has transformed from being called “Out & About” to “I Am”. And I am delighted to inform you that “I Am” will be released through film festivals in the fall. It is a film that advocates for change through deeply moving personal narratives. The audience response from the first preview screening at CLAGS on May 6th 2010 was extremely reaffirming and reassuring. I would like to thank the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies and the Robert Giard Foundation in supporting me in making this film a reality, in helping me share stories that are silenced, and in recognizing the importance of showing under-represented voices in mass media.