Amen - A short film written and directed by Ranadeep Bhattacharya and Judhajit Bhagchi, Presented by Valentina Erath and Harish Iyer, Featuring Karan Mehra and Jitin Gulati, Cinematography Varun Sud and Music Composed by Jonathan Fessenden.
"The worldwide web gets two protagonists, Andy and Harry, to come together on a nonchalant afternoon. Andy, the suave and rich urban banker stands in a place he shouldn't ideally be, while his counterpart, the soft spoken, overtly humble Harry, stands tall and firm and is completely rooted where he is today. Both have different hopes from the destined meeting. Their interactions bring out questions that need to be answered, truths that need to be accepted and a life that stands to be reckoned.
Amen makes two characters meet, experience hope amidst confusion, explore truths about sexuality and the self and delves into the profound meaning of life in the continuum of its trifles."
I have known Harish Iyer for a long time now, but have become a good friend of his in the age of Facebook and Twitter. I have followed him as much as he has followed me for over 3 years now and he has never ceased to surprise me with the gift he has of coming out with an honesty about himself, which is so rare in present times. When he came out with facts about abuse when he was a young child in the Mumbai Mirror sometime ago and it spread like a viral on the net I reached out to him because at one point after he had unleashed the most private secret of his heart in public domain, I had felt through his updates on his wall, that he feared he might have done the wrong thing. I think it is in that instant when Harish and I became really close friends, without ever having met. I know how important it is for those who have been wronged when innocent, to come out with it publicly at some point or the other in their lives, because however unforgiving it may be for the person speaking out, it surely releases him from the stranglehold of pain he has lived with for so many years. I have been through it myself, and I understand what Harish was going through it at the time.
Thereafter we communicated with each other regularly in connection with each other in a strange sort of a way because we had still never met. Then I got invited by him last weekend to see Amen, a film made by Ranadeep and Judhajit, two young and driven directors who took a line from one of the pages of Harish's life and converted it to the art which I witnessed the other day.
Harish had been struck with surprise when he was once told by somebody that he is gay because he had been sexually abused when he was a child. There are many people in this world who believe that. He wanted to clarify to the world that you don't become gay because of some reason or another.
That you are either born gay, or born straight.
When Judhajit and Ranadeep were in search of a story, they chanced upon this incident Harish narrated to them and decided to make their debut with a short film on the same.
It was to cost Rs. 30000 only.
They, along with Harish, went on a hunt for actors to play the parts of Andy and Harry, which in itself is a whole story for another film, and after much anguish managed to find actors Karan Mehra and Jitin Gulati, who had the courage to say yes to their roles.
The production began and stalled as soon as they had started making the film because they had run out of the funds which they had raised.
They were lost and didn't know what to do next. Harish, in his usual style of declaring his anguish on twitter and facebook, screamed aloud and wished there was someone out there who could help them out.
Valentina Erath, a young Austrian, who was randomly following Harish and didn't know him from adam's called him up and asked him what his film was about. When Harish told her what it was about, Valentina took his bank account number and sent him another 30000 bucks which vanished in no time while the unit wasn't half way through production.
But Valentina, who is a single working girl in Austria believed in Harish and by now Ranadeep and Judhajit as well, and continued to cut costs at her end by avoiding to buy say an extra outfit she needed, or a pair of shoes she fell in love with while window shopping, but didn't give up on sending them funds piecemeal, for them to complete the film which eventually cost them Rs. 3 lakhs.
How they achieved the brilliant background score by Jonathan Fessenden over interaction with him online and free of cost is another story in itself.
How the sets were put up with two walls and props were got borrowed from friends is another tale and the list of interesting trivia goes on and on which the director, actors, presenters and the rest of the team tell you at the end of the screening while you sit glued to your seat because you are unable to rise from it after the film ends.
Amen, which starts with Andy and Harry meeting for the first time physically after a brief interaction online, moves into an expression of sexual angst from Andy, who is in denial, and a display of sexual comfort from Harry, who is free from fear of any disclosure about himself, both who have dared to share a few moments of pleasure with each other without ever having met before.
The scene of their love making is in your face, which is perhaps, why, so many actors refused to play their parts, despite ironically both being parts actors would rarely ever get the chance to play.
How Harry heals Andy physically and emotionally and sets him free literally and figuratively is what the rest of the 15 minutes of the film achieves seamlessly through the most sensitive storytelling by the directors that I have seen coming from any Indian film maker in the recent past.
As a matter of fact, it wouldn't be fair to compare Ranadeep and Judhajit with anybody other than their own peers, because there is nobody on the scene I have seen who has had the guts and the courage to tear forward with a narrative as they have done with Amen.
Both Karan and Jitin have portrayed their parts with conviction and understanding. As actors, they have set themselves free with confidence and faith in the script. I can see both Karan and Jitin go a long way from here and believe they are the talent for the future of our works.
Both actors in their performances as lusting partners at first and lovers at the end, cut past the gender divide and make you feel the power of love above everything else through their chemistry. I for one, forgot I was a woman watching a film about the currents that flowed between two men, because what the two actors felt, resonated with me irrespective.
With Amen you can see the emergence of an Indian cinema to which the scale of the making is irrelevant while exploring depths and which cannot be stopped because it is impressionistic and does not require a whole industry to hold it up as technology had provided it with a freedom to explore itself without dependence on anybody else but a bunch of guys on the same page.
With the stories behind the scenes of Amen, you know that there are people in this world who will back art for its own sake because they believe in the intention and realize its potential to change this world which is so lacking in sensitive content because it is so hugely trapped in a business run by those who only seek returns.
My advice to the makers: Hold paid for screenings in different parts of Mumbai every weekend and you will recover your costs in no time.
My advice to the audience: Go see Amen and keep the art alive by paying for tickets at a venue near you.
My plea to the industry: Support films like Amen because it is the future of our cinema.