All 'Coming Out' Cliches In One Film
A young photographer Kartik comes home to a small town for a family puja and comes out to his mother. You want to say nice things because the issue of gay rights is important, but this film is riddled with cliches about a patriarchal family where the gay son has not come out. It’s a tedious watch.
Trouble with such films is, that you want to support the cause, but a bad film is a bad film.
Anant Mahadevan plays the annoying patriarch who is consistently rude and obnoxious to his wife, his sister and insists that his son Kartik get married in an arranged marriage. Kartik is a gentle soul, coming home after 4 years. He has a secret which has to spilled because the family wants him to get married to a girl.
The concerns are glaringly obvious. He’s living happily with a lad in the big city, and he is unable to come out because he is afraid of how it will affect his mother and because he know that his dad will explode.
And the story proceeds exactly as you would think. The dad is rough with the mom, insulting her, asking her to do this or that, and the mother, (Mona Ambegaonkar is rather good as mom) silently suffers everything. We get the equation, but the filmmaker hammers it in again and again and again until we want to say, ‘We get that, now get on with the story!’ So dad wants Kartik to get married to a girl of his choice and gives Kartik grief about how lives need to be lived by a system and do things - like get married, have children - at the right time.
Kartik is played by Devansh Doshi, and he has a great screen presence. You actually like his connect with his mother and wish so much time wasn’t wasted on establishing that the dad is an awful person.
Before you can roll your eyes at dad, Kartik has taken his mom out on a day trip and has confessed that his reluctance to get married stems from his connection, his affair with a lad. Of course the mother reacts like everything Sparknotes might say about how mothers react when sons come out. She is shocked, she cries, she imagines him cross-dressed, she hopes he will come around, she prays to the Gods so he can be ‘normal’, she even calls his sexual relationship ‘dirty’ and ‘abnormal’...
Kartik is dismayed. His partner Aman, tells him over the phone to take heart and give his mother time to get used to this ‘new reality’. Then comes the best line of dialog of the film. This line should have been explored more than just being a throwaway line. That would have been a meatier film than this bunch of cliches. Paraphrasing the dialog: ‘When a son comes out of the closet, he pushes his mother into the closet.’
That is an idea worth exploring. The idea that a gay son ‘shuts up’ his conservative mother who belongs to a traditional family is better than just showing a father rough with his son after finding out he is gay. Kartik leaves his computer open to a folder where he has happy, intimate pictures with his partner, dad sees them and blows his top, beating him black and blue. The father remembers the ‘signs’ that his son is gay: the film flashbacks into showing Kartik in the kitchen as very young boy, cutting vegetables and being interested in cooking… Such cliches are just too terrible to be appreciated.
India is still coming to terms with laws that make sexual activity between people of same sex non-criminal, and not too many films deal with a ‘gay’ theme. So you want to make allowances and call the film ‘brave’. But as country that produces so many movies a year, this film is just awful, full of stereotypes; and the treatment of important dialog like the one where the mother finally musters courage to yell at the father saying, ‘He is my son and he can be whoever he wants to be’ is said in such a horrible over-the-top 70s Hindi film stereotype, it leaves you cringing. She screams, ‘He is my flesh and blood. I fed him my blood for nine months in my womb…’
Shubha Mudgal’s song is just too predictable a wail and slows the film down. Evening Shadows is a painful watch and even though the lead duo of mother and son are very good, the shabby screenplay does not help.
(this review appears on nowrunning.com)