En Magan Maghizvan is a film determined to show a normalized depiction of gay relationships, a difficult feat in a country still under the cloud of Section 377. It got an unlikely U/A rating without any cuts from the censor board in November, a sign of its restraint in refraining from provocative shock value.
First-time, 27 year-old director Lokesh Rajavel put the project together, stating he wanted to make the movie because it was absolute virgin territory in Tamil cinema. The Tamil films which carried gay references have been reactionary, deeply offensive, and misinformed up till En Magan Maghizvan. Lokesh wanted to localize the issue, bring the conversation home to a middle-class, regional Indian family to really show the depth of the struggles faced by many in the LGBT community.
Lokesh was initially forced to begin developing the film in Hindi, as he didn’t feel Tamil cinema was ready for the experimentation. However, the costs of shooting in Mumbai spiraled when he began to put it together on paper, and the film was forced onto the back-burner for two years. Only in 2016 did Lokesh feel the film could succeed in Tamil cinema, and with the support of producers Anil Saxena and Cyril D’Souza, he was able to attract recognized actors to the project, providing it with much-needed mass appeal.
The film grabbed attention at the festival circuit; it premiered at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, and was then selected to be shown at the prestigious New York LGBT Film Festival. It debuted in India at the Dialogues Kolkata LGBT festival and then received screening at the Chennai International Film Festival. It received great response internationally and at home, finally culminating with the award for Best Film at the Indian World Film Festival in India.
The film is a true success in its superseding of the fascination with gay sex; it is assumed to an extent that if a film is going to invite controversy, it is going to go all the way in order to invite attention. However, En Magan Maghizvan shows that gay couples fall in love just like straight couples do, and they fight and break up and have the same day-to-day problems any other couples have. The film isn’t high-budget or even smoothly edited throughout, but that adds a certain charm to this defiant, slightly amateurish promotion of a positive message.
Watch the trailer below:
Image source: My Son is Gay screen-grabs