When 21-year-old computer engineer Tushar Tyagi left Meerut for New York, even he couldn’t have predicted what the future held for him. He joined the New York Film Academy and today at 32, Tushar Tyagi is a filmmaker with more than ten titles to his credit.
“My maternal grandmother is the reason I’m in movies. When I was very young, she would tell me stories and I would close my eyes and imagine them happening,” says Tushar. “When I was in middle school, I started writing stories to overcome my loneliness. My English teacher happened to read one and she started motivating me to write more.
Growing up, the desire to bring his stories to life led him to choose cinema as a means of expression.
It’s a career choice that Tushar has never regretted. His 2014 film Gulabeethe story of a prostitute battling the demons of her past, won her a Royal Reel Award at the Canadian International Film Festival. Hari (2015), about the trials and tribulations of a young priest, won Best Screenplay at the Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival and the LA Short Awards in 2016. A broken egg (2017) deals with teenage pregnancy and was part of Cannes Short Film Corner 2017. Her 2018 film Kaashi traces the life of a poor teenage girl and sheds light on the shortage of basic necessities in rural India.
However, the filmmaker avoided commercial Hindi cinema. “I would consider myself a crossover director telling Indian stories from an American lens. I see myself following the example of Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta. Their works as well as that of Zoya Akhtar had a huge influence on me as I grew up.
Policies and Payments
Tushar’s poignant short film Save the Chintu made the festival rounds before getting its OTT release this month. Lasting approximately 25 minutes, the story details the struggle of an American gay couple navigating India’s adoption policy that discriminates against the LGBTQIA+ community. “I was very shocked to learn that in India a same-sex couple cannot adopt a child. I’m not just talking about Indian citizens. Even same-sex couples from countries where same-sex marriages are legal cannot apply! The Indian authorities do not accept their petition,” Tushar points out.
The film was nominated for several awards at several film festivals, with actor Sachin Bhatt winning Best Actor at the DFW South Asian Film Festival in Dallas. “The journey so far has been very humbling,” says Tushar. “We went to nearly 30 film festivals, including the Oscar and BAFTA qualifying film festivals. Before the pandemic hit, the film was shown at physical film festivals. Experiencing the audience reaction in person warmed my heart! »
Search the story
The film’s story evolved from the merging of two distinct real-life experiences. “The creation of the script came from a conversation with my doctor in Los Angeles in 2016. This world-class doctor had been adopted from India by his heterosexual American parents. He suffered from malnutrition and various medical conditions, and his parents, as well as the orphanage, had to produce false documents to be able to get him out of India for the medical treatment he needed. I liked the story, but in 2016 I had given up on the idea because we’ve seen the same premise in several movies before. But the script came to life after I met Jeremy and changed the angle from straight parents to future gay parents, and replaced malnutrition with HIV.
Tushar had met Jeremy at an ashram in Rishikesh. Jeremy had come to India after being diagnosed with HIV in Manhattan. When he learned of the incredible discrimination faced here by thousands of Indian children living with HIV, he decided to move to India and opened a shelter for them.
“Today he cares for around 45 HIV-positive children, most of whom have lost their parents to AIDS. The conversation with Jeremy got me thinking about how it would change the storyline if the HIV angle was introduced,” Tushar reveals. “As a society, we are so stigmatized by the words HIV or AIDS that a large majority of us don’t even know the difference between being HIV positive and AIDS. During the research for this film, I spoke to people from a variety of backgrounds and was quite surprised at how ignorant the so-called Woke Brigade of Millennials and Gen Z were regarding HIV.
The voice of the inaudible
With the making of films telling the stories of the LGBTQIA+ community, Indian cinema is finally coming of age, Tushar believes. “Filmmakers have a huge responsibility to make stories that don’t stereotype the community. We need to understand that writing LGBTQIA+ stories without the knowledge of the community or the issues facing community members could have seriously damaging repercussions. The right way to handle this is to have queer writers in your writers rooms who have lived experiences and can tell the stories authentically.
From HT Brunch, June 18, 2022
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