The journey of two young hearts, a gradual awakening to their sexuality, only to be interrupted yet again by their families with different faiths and traditions. And, of course, by antiquated societal norms. A lyrical, visually evocative, portrayal of the coming of age phenomenon, one of the few films in recent memory that I have watched with my eyes and heart, and not with my ears and brain.
Chandra, born to Hindu parents, is a reticent, cerebral, budding poet. Bobby, a Christian, is a bubbly, physical, vivacious dancer. The two couldn't have been more different in their approaches to life, but it's a case of the opposites attracting one another. They grow up together as friends and neighbors much as Shekhar and Lolita in the blockbuster Bollywood movie, and Saratchandra Chatterjee's novel, Parineeta. Although Bobby is unaware of this, Chandra secretly harbors a love for her that goes beyond friendship.
Prompted by another classmate, Rajan, who is infatuated with Bobby, Chandra begins to write a few love poems to her on his behalf. During a break in one of their study sessions, an amused Bobby reads out the poems to Chandra. Her favorite:
I know not what love is, but, perhaps
I will know it tomorrow or another day
Until that day I will worship you
From the valleys of anonymity...
Unwittingly, Chandra joins in:
You and I like fireflies
Will sail into that darkening sky
May your wings be borne by strength.
Initially surprised and afraid, Bobby gradually warms up to this new twist in their relationship, reciprocating Chandra's love for her. Rajan catches them in one of their intimate moments, and informs Bobby's mother. Upset and nervous about her community's acceptance of Bobby and Chandra's relationship, she hurriedly arranges to get Bobby married off to a suitable boy, Sebastian. More mindful of the family and social pressures than Chandra, Bobby reluctantly acquiesces to the wedding. Chandra's parents, too, show little understanding, driving the distraught lover to contemplate suicide.
That Chandra is a Hindu and she herself a Christian, does not seem to have bothered Bobby. Why should it bother their parents, their community, or the society at large? Oh, come on, you are living in antiquity... and wasting our time. All this is passé; no one really cares about this stuff these days, yes?
How about this? Chandra, like Bobby, is a girl, too. That they belong to the same sex doesn't bother Bobby or Chandra. Why should it be of any concern to their parents, the society, or the state? Why should they hold the ticket to Bobby and Chandra's journey together?
Adapted from the screenplay of Ligy Pullappally's Sancharram (The Journey). The film was inspired by an email that Ms. Pullappally received from a girl (Delilah in the movie) at a university in Kerala, India, detailing the suicide of her paramour (Kiran in the movie). Lesbian suicide in Kerala is at an alarming rate. Perhaps, in the rest of India, too, but we wouldn't know until another talented and sensitive director receives another email from another lonely girl... or a boy.
Get involved. Please sign the open letter to the Government of India, Members of the Judiciary, and all Citizens to repeal Sec. 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes homosexuality. Thanks.