Movie Review - Evening Shadows
Written and directed by Sridhar Rangayan, a notable gay Indian filmmaker and activist, this movie takes place in the run-up to that Supreme Court decision. Characters talk about Section 377 and even see news clips on television about it. That basic protection, which many in the western world take for granted, hangs like a cloud over the characters in this film. However, on a fundamental level, this film is a coming-out narrative. Obviously, in western cinema and television from Europe to the United States, we've now seen a ton of coming-out narratives. The films of such have been mostly on the independent circuit. The recent Love, Simon (2018) was a mainstream example though. What makes this film special or unique is that it's made in India by an Indian filmmaker.
Rangayan's film is a bit of a step backward in that it doesn't feature any kissing or physical affection that makes the homosexuality obvious. Pictures of two men in close proximity is meant to be suggestive, but close heterosexual friendship could be misconstrued, if one wanted to do so. Other people have noted the common occurrence of straight Indian men holding hands in public all the time, which in America might be construed as gay male behavior, but reportedly it's not in India, not by the general public. Yet, here it does seem to be construed that way. The reason might be because Rangayan doesn't want the controversy or backlash that would come from the depiction of physical affection that would be undeniable.
I haven't seen any of Rangayan's previous films to say if this is a pattern for him, but I don't think that it is. Indications that his previous works do possess an array of depiction of same-sex attraction or queer love. The structure of the narrative here seems almost designed to avoid depiction of same-sex attraction, which isn't a negative because that same-sex attraction is so strongly asserted in dialogue and through acting. The structure in fact is reminiscent of a recent, American release called 1985 (2018) in which a gay man goes from New York City back home to visit his conservative family in Texas.
He's been away from home for several years. He returns home for some kind of special occasion. It's then that his father starts to pressure him to get married, obviously to a woman. Kartik doesn't want to get married, but his parents have invited a girl from his childhood as a potential wife for him. It's at that point that Kartik feels like he has to tell at least his mom the truth.
The film becomes a series of conversations between Kartik and Vasu. A large chunk of the middle section is Kartik and Vasu sightseeing while they converse. There's even a few walk-and-talk scenes. It's not maintained for any long sense of time, but, for those few scenes, this film moved from 1985 to something like Before Midnight (2013), but set in southern India. Focus is therefore put a lot on the performances of the actors of Doshi and Ambegaonkar. Both of whom deliver. Ambegaonkar especially delivers a monologue toward the end that is devastating in which she speaks on her relationship to her son and what he's meant to her life.
Supporting performances from Ananth Narayan Mahadevan who plays the father and husband, as well as Abhay Kulkarni who plays Ramesh, the closeted uncle who has designs on Kartik, are also quite good.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 41 mins.
Available on Netflix.
In limited release in India in January.
In select theaters in February, including in San Francisco.
Playing at qFLIX Philadelphia on March 27.