Interviewed By: Naveen Tokas
First of all we want to thank you that you are going to feature your 2020 interview with “Miss Woomaniya Magazine” a venture of Miss Woomaniya Production, actively working for Queer Community and yes congrats to you for the success of “Sisak” film.
Naveen: Faraz, you are coming with a film name “Sheer Qorma” that’s based on the lesbian life especially the culture of Islam. From where did you take the idea of this theme?
Faraz: Sheer Qorma is a film about love and acceptance told through characters that are queer women folk and non-binary people of color. The protagonists in the film belong to a Muslim family. Why? Well, there are many reasons to it. Firstly, I come from a Muslim family and hence, I wanted to bring forward a true portrayal of a Muslim family that is real and not tainted to fit into tarnished stereotypes created by the media. Secondly, there exists a great deal of misogyny, patriarchy and islamophobia in the Indian queer communities — something I have experienced first hand and hence, I wanted to use this opportunity to delve deeper and bring forward multiple narratives and dimensions which also includes sexuality and religion in the same universe of story-telling. Thirdly, womxn folks, especially queer womxn of color, rarely make it into the LGBTQIA+ cinema, even in the global narratives. We seldom see these characters and hence, it was a diligent decision on my part to make a film about queer women & non-binary folk. There are multiple themes in Sheer Qorma — womenhood, nationality, religion, sexuality, gender identity, languages to name a few.
Naveen: Can we say that this is going to be the “Religion based film”? Do you think people from Islamic culture will going to accept this film in their culture? Why do you prefer to watch this film to the audiences? What special is in this movie apart from lesbian story?
Faraz: I don’t understand what is a “religion based film” — what does that mean? If a film portrays a Catholic family, does it mean that it is a Christian film? If that is the case then most of Bollywood films that portray Hindu families, will they considered to be Hindu film? No, I don’t think that is the case. Sheer Qorma portrays a Muslim family but that doesn’t mean that it is a Muslim film. How can a film have a religion? Just like Urdu doesn’t have a religion. Just like clothes don’t have gender. Also, what is “Islamic culture” really? The culture differs geographically. Even if you just look at India, you will find that the culture and traditions followed by Muslims in Kashmir would be worlds apart from the culture followed by Muslims in Kanyakumari. Islamic culture to me, personally, is something that cannot be explained through a limited medium. For me, it includes the magnificent Buraq — the winged horse from The Holy Quran, the mystical relationship of Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi and Shams Tabrizi, the legend of love made immortal by Shah Hussain and Madho Lal, the whispers of eternal romance between Jamali and Kamali, the Great Mughals translating The Bhagavad Gita into Farsi, the amalgamation of Indo-Persian architecture, the Ganga-Jamuna tehzeeb that celebrate unity and diversity, the songs of Hazrat Amir Khusrau that continue to resonate in our lives. These are just a few examples. Would Sheer Qorma find a place in this rich culture? I certainly hope so! What is special about Sheer Qorma? I think it would be utterly preposterous of me answer that. It is for the audience to decide for themselves if they something special in the film. All I can do is hope that they do.
Naveen: In Sheer Qorma, according to you which actor has played the best role and which one took more takes?
Faraz: Sheer Qorma has some of the most celebrated actors of Indian cinema — Shabana Azmi ji, Divya Dutta & Swara Bhasker. Each of them play very different characters and so, it would be unfair to compare. I feel a great story has characters that compliment each-other and without one, the other doesn’t exist in the same grandeur and form. The universe of Sheer Qorma, like a good story, is made of characters that co-exist and bring to live a universe that becomes multilayered. To be honest, we never did more than three takes during the filming of Sheer Qorma. We did many readings, workshops, rehearsals before filming that helped us all immensely.
Naveen: Why did you cast Diyva Dutta and Swara Bhaskar together? What type of chemistry you see during the casting of the movie? As for these role there are many actors like Konkona Sen or Kalki too that already did LGBTQ films.
Faraz: I wrote Saira’s character with Divya Dutta in mind. Reason for this being, I started my career with Divya Dutta in Stanley Ka Dabba. I was the Associate Director and Divya was playing the lead in the film. Since then, Divya and I have a very special bond. I had promised her that someday, I would love to direct her for my film. In Sheer Qorma, you will see Divya play a character that she’s never played before. To play Sitara’s character, I was very keen on an actor who has never played a character like this before. Swara was always on the top of my wish-list. The chemistry that Divya and Swara share in Sheer Qorma is sublime, gentle with undercurrents of a love that transcends time and body. They bring forward a soul connection that is so ethereal to watch.
Naveen: Most of people from our community wants to know about your Coming out to your family, what and how was that?
Faraz: I came out to my mom when I was 21 years old. I had to come out to her when I was going through an emotional turmoil. I had lost my boyfriend in an accident. We were in a relationship for six years. I had moved back from the US to India in June 2009 and I lost him in October 2009. So when I lost him, I wanted to go back to the US for his funeral but my mother wasn’t ready to let me go and hence, I had to come out to her and tell her about my relationship. It wasn’t the best time to come out but then, I didn’t have an option but to come out.
Naveen: Will you always continue yourself as a lgbt film maker or will you going to make a film on the mainstream cinema?
Faraz: My efforts will continue to mainstream LGBTQIA+ cinema. Why can’t we have a mainstream LGBTQIA+ filmmaker who makes mainstream LGBTQIA+ films? Having said that, I will also make films that don’t necessarily have an LGBTQIA+ narrative. Right now, I am writing a science-fiction film, a fantasy film and a LGBTQ road-trip romance. As a filmmaker, I want to keep exploring genres. Life is too short to fit into boxes and binaries.
Naveen: Your film Sisak won more than 50 awards, what your expectations from “Sheer Qorma”. Will this film helps lesbian to come out from the society. As you know the “L” letter from LGBT is mostly invisible. What are your expectations?
Faraz: Sisak became the first ever Indian film to win 59 International Awards. A milestone for Indian cinema set by a silent, queer film but what was more gratifying than all those awards were all the love that we have received from audiences across the globe. Many folx came out to their families after watching Sisak. Those, for me, are the bigger milestones and awards that we have won. However, to be very honest, I didn’t make Sisak with any expectations. I made it with honesty, integrity and love. Just the way I have made Sheer Qorma. I don’t have any expectations. I just want to make sure that we are able to take the film to as many places as we can and share it with millions of people. That is my only hope.
Naveen: It is going to rumored in the community that you are going to BIgg Boss this year, what is that? Any Comments.
Faraz: I don’t have the time to take out a few months a park myself inside a reality show as a contestant. Not now. Not yet. Perhaps the time for it will come but now is not the time for this. I have bigger plans and bigger battles to fight. So much to do and so little time.
Naveen: Do you feel any changes after the releasing of LGBTQ movies like Evening Shadows, Sisak, Subh Mangal Swadhan, Inaayat or Singular The Queen of Success? Do you think with the help of cinema, we can change the homophobic world?
Faraz: Except for Sisak, I haven’t seen any of the films mentioned, so it wouldn’t be fair to comment about them. But to answer your question about cinema being used as a tool to fight homophobia — YES! Absolutely. That is why I make films. Because I know cinema has the power to change the world. Cinema, when used wisely, will transform us — how we think, how we feel, how we react and what we choose to believe. I feel a filmmaker is more powerful than the Prime Minister or President. A filmmaker can subconsciously change your beliefs and create a world that we all deserve.
Naveen: Last question, what message do you want to give to your fans. How long they have to wait for “Sheer Qorma”?
Faraz: The only message I have is: Love is always the answer. Hate never wins. All of us are in this together and none of us are free until all of us are free and hence, we need to stay united and find the courage to love. Only love can save us. Nothing else but love. Sheer Qorma was to have its World Premiere at BFI in March. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, most of the screenings that were scheduled until June have been either cancelled or postponed for now. Once the pandemic ends, we will have an answer. The best way to stay abreast with the latest updates is to follow us on our social media handles: @sheerqorma.thefilm