The 2018 London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) ended on a high note with Venus, a dramatic comedy about a transitioning woman who discovers she’s the father of a 14-year-old boy. Eisha Marjara, the director, was on hand to introduce the film. She enthused about how honoured she was to be at the Festival, especially after all the effort she has put into Venus since beginning the project in 2014. “I hope you enjoy it and have a good time,” she said.
Marjara needn’t have worried. The audience did enjoy Venus, very much in fact. The gentle humour in the movie elicited laughs in all the right places and the dramatic bits hushed the moviegoers, as we tensely hung on for how matters would resolve themselves. As the credits rolled, there was a round of applause. Given the transgender character in Venus, there was a definitely feeling that there were LGBTQ members of the audience for whom this resonated strongly. This was confirmed at the Q&A session afterwards where several admirers of the movie stood up to share how the movie had touched them. (to read more about the Q&A session click here)
Venus felt like the ideal ‘light touch’, which LIFF needed, especially having kicked-off with the harrowingly effective Love Sonia, which chronicled the tale of a young girl who suffers abuse when she is caught up in the global sex-trafficking trade. Venus, however, displayed a charm and naturalistic humour whilst dealing with a topic which could’ve become voyeuristic. Venus was all about the characters and their relationships, portraying very likeable and sympathetic individuals, all of whom have their own motivations and hopes.
The movie handles a variety of issues which all emanate from the lead’s choice to come out as a woman and transition. This includes the parents, who wonder what has happened to their son, the newly-discovered child from a previous relationship, who beautifully personifies unconditional love, and the boyfriend, who hasn’t come to terms with his own sexuality and how to tells his family. The humour manages to keep the tone light and, in my opinion, brings some reality to the proceedings because life is full of humour – even in the toughest of times.
It felt that Venus could be a movie which could go mainstream, despite tackling issues which might be thought of as niche. A film about transitioning which isn’t overly focussed on the mechanics or the social intolerance has the potential to break out. Joe Balass, the producer, would certainly like to give moviegoers around the country that chance because he is hoping that Venus will get a distribution deal in the UK.
Ultimately, the ninth LIFF has managed to accomplish what it always sets out to do, showcase the best of Indian independent cinema. The festival puts on challenging films but with a balanced programme, to not only feed the faithful but also to entice in first-time visitors. This is especially true given that LIFF has now spread to Manchester, as well as Birmingham and London. It’s only just finished but I can’t wait for the tenth London India Film Festival to start. I hope I’ll see you there in 2019. I guarantee that there will be a movie you’ll enjoy and open your eyes to the exciting world of independent Indian movies.