Why we made the 'lesbian ad' that went viral
'The Visit' was created with the intention of not looking at a lesbian relationship as something different, but rather something identifiable, real and ordinary.
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The Visit is not India's first lesbian ad, but it is the first one to come out with unabashed openness.
I am a part of the creative team that conceived the ad and also the director of the film.
An early draft of our script showed only one woman, speaking off-camera to her lover. It revealed in the end that her lover is another woman. My directorial choice was to show both women and take the audience bang in to the middle of their every day lives. I decided to let the audience meet them without hinting at their sexual orientation and relationship. It's a choice that breaks the barrier between "them" and "us" that automatically exists while watching a lesbian film.
The film follows the two women from a tiny, stuffy bedroom to an open and airy living room as they prepare for one of their parents' arrival. Their chemistry and relationship is revealed layer by layer and the two women "come out" to the audience even before they come out to the parents. The audience witnesses their transformation and it poses them a question - do you change your mind about them by the end of the film? Or do you see this couple just as yourselves, in love with your better halves? In a relationship that is just as valid as yours?
To understand the space, I referenced a real lesbian couple and read and watched personal accounts from lesbians on the Internet. To bring alive their characters and to make their chemistry believable I created a back-story. Their distinct personalities and appearances were defined even before we started casting. Physically, one is taller, duskier and the other is petit, shorter and fairer. For our understanding one woman was named Yamini, she is a Tamilian and the older of the two. Her girlfriend, who is a few years younger, is Tanaz. Yamini works as a journalist while Tanaz is completing her post-grad studies. They have been in a relationship for over two years and have finally decided to come out to their parents.
The final scene takes place next to an open window. The girls drop all guard and are at their vulnerable most. Tanaz jokes about how she wants Yamini's mother to like her - and Yamini pulls her leg saying "Amma doesn't like girls in short hair". This touch of humour in their lived-in banter defines the kind of couple they are. The moment gives to their real internal conflict as Tanaz asks if Yamini is "sure about this" sensing what her girlfriend must be going through, but also revealing her own apprehensions. Yamini, whom we have seen in moments of contemplation through the film, has her mind made up. She "does not want to hide" herself or her lover anymore.
Although I had briefed the actors for an intimate kiss during rehearsals, while shooting I felt we had achieved the same intensity without going all the way. The series has been shot by renowned cinematographer and documentary filmmaker Ranjan Palit. His handheld camera and minimal artificial lighting breathes realism and candidness into the films. The Visit along with its two sisters - The Wait and The Whisper were conceived and created at O&M, Bangalore and produced by Hectic Content. All three are a part of the "Bold is Beautiful" series by Anouk, from Myntra.
The Visit was created with the intention of not looking at a lesbian relationship as something different, but rather something identifiable, real and ordinary. What is extraordinary about it is the boldness these two women show in not hiding their relationship, in a society that still holds gay love as taboo.