'Homosexuality is still a taboo in our country'
The screenwriter of web series, America Mapillai, hopes for more dignified representation of gay characters in mainstream cinema
Raja Ramamurthy, the screenwriter of the recently released web series, America Mapillai, believes the script was perfect for the medium, and that it could have existed in no other form. Directed by Praveen Padmanabhan, and produced by Trend Loud (the name behind As I am Suffering From Kaadhal), America Mapillai is an eight-part Tamil web series from Zee5 Originals. In short, it is about an NRI, who's pressurised by his single dad to get married.
Elaborating on why he thinks this medium is perfect for the script, he says, "This way, we get the liberty to add characters, explore subplots, and perspectives. You can’t quite do that in short films. I can choose my audience and tell the story I want without any compromise."
He thinks the maker has more control when doing a web series. "You have a lot of logistics that go into making a feature film. The economics matters a lot. You need to find the right buyers and cater to the mainstream audience to succeed there. Here though, you’re not bound by such limitations and you have more control."
The idea behind the story is straightforward, says Raja. "We wanted to break the idea of how your usual America Mappillai is portrayed. I was looking at ways to subvert this character archetype in our society and cinema. He's generally shown to be this idealistic groom, a dream catch," he smiles.
Raja, who has a Master's degree in screenwriting from Chapman University, spent quite some time researching the project. "I read through inspiring stories about the LGBT community, and saw videos of the YouTube channel Orinam Webber, about Tamil gay men, and their fears, and the misrepresentation of those coming out," he says.
His writer-friends who're gay, gave him a lot of feedback on the script. "That really helped me keep it all real," adds Raja.
He is confident that Indian audiences will welcome original content. "Many international and Indian OTT platforms have been investing millions on this, but there are limited avenues that cater to the niche Indian crowd. I think they are ready to pay for quality stories," he says.
America Mappillai features senior actors including Krishnamoorthy (Kitty), and Leela Samson, along with Arjun Chidambaram, Gokul Anand, Sruthi Hariharan, and Delhi Ganesh.
Raja says while the older generation has been able to identify with the characters played by Kitty and Leela Samson, the younger generation has been able to relate a lot to the ones played by Arjun and Gokul. "Arjun and Gokul readily agreed to be a part of the project. They had no apprehension about playing gay characters. Unfortunately, this is still considered a taboo subject in our society. The need of the hour is more dignified representation of the LGBT community in Indian cinema."
Raja is thankful that his family was appreciative of this initiative. "Marriages in our country are never just about the bride and the groom; it is about two families and bringing them together. Families will always be the biggest support system for whatever life throws at you," he says.