Love Storiyaan team interview: We need love stories now more than ever

The team behind Love Storiyaan speaks about directing their respective segments in the documentary series, and their personal connect with these diverse tales of love
Love Storiyaan team interview: We need love stories now more than ever
Love Storiyaan team interview: We need love stories now more than ever

It is often said that the stories choose their tellers. Apart from giving a deeper look into the life of its characters, a story also gives insights into the mind of its teller. Such is the case with the three episodes in Love Storiyaan, directed by Akshay Indikar, Shazia Iqbal and Collin D’Cunha. Taking some real-life stories from ‘India Love Project’ — an archive of love stories outside the shackles of faith, caste, ethnicity and gender—the six-part series pushed them gently into the world like paper boats in a pond. Going on a quest to know their subjects, these filmmakers found a part of themselves along the way.

The fourth episode in the series, Raah Sangharsh Ki, tells the story of Rahul and Subhadra, who led a life of struggle, in order to fight for tribal rights. The story is remarkable also because of the varying backgrounds of the two. Rahul comes from an upper-caste Brahmin family while Subhadra belongs to an oppressed caste. Akshay, who directed the episode, also comes from a marginalised community and the inter-caste relationship intrigued him. He says he wanted to look at the story with an informed and sensitive gaze.

At one point in the episode, Subhadra expresses how she often thought about leaving Rahul. But then, there was always another contradictory thought: “Where will I find a man like him?”. It was also this bittersweet nature of their bond that tempted Akshay to explore the story. “Both of them shared a relationship that was like flower and rock,” he says. “It was not just a personal story of two people in love but also a story that had political implications.”

For Shazia, it was the theme of inter-faith marriages that was appealing. She had seen her sibling get into an inter-faith marriage, which was a cause of trouble in their family. Somen Mishra, the showrunner of Love Storiyaan, suggested that she should expand this further. “He asked me if I wanted to explore what a marriage like that does to the family years down the line,” she says. “So, I was looking for an interfaith couple and the kind of life they led post-marriage.”

She found her story in Sunit and Fareeda, an elderly couple who got married against all odds. “When we did the first interview with them, Sunit was speaking fondly about Bangladesh,” she says. “The good thing about their journey is that they were not bitter about all the things that happened to them.” The world, however, was bitter to them, just like it was to Tista and Dipan, the protagonists of Collin’s episode. Collin wanted to tell a queer story to bring the conversation to a mainstream platform. “India Love Project is very inclusive when it comes to everything, including gender. So, our films had to reflect that as well,” he says. “I came across Tista and Dipan’s extraordinary love story, which spoke to me on various levels. So much of it was about accepting themselves first before falling in love.”

Even the structure of the episode came from the active participation of the two. “What was interesting in my case was that Tista wanted to become an actress, so I drafted certain scenes with her acting in her own film,” he says. “She enjoyed it immensely. It was a meta moment to see them come to the theatre and watch themselves on the big screen.”

On the other hand, Akshay didn’t have a structure in the beginning. It was only when they started location scouting and talking with the couple that it started becoming clear. “It was challenging to converge all those years of their life into a 30-minute film,” he says. “Hence, we decided to stick to the present nature of their relationship and capture the nuances of how they talk with each other and what is their daily routine. That’s where the humour and the little things about their relationship came in.”

It was also through humour and jokes that Fareeda’s family got comfortable on camera, Shazia recalls. “Sunit and Fareeda had a certain spark," she says. "They forgot about the camera even when we met them during the recce. By the end of the day, they were quite friendly." The episode was rightly called Homecoming as Fareeda and Sunit visited Bangladesh for the first time in decades. “It was their first and last trip together,” Shazia says. “It was an emotionally potent thing that they were going to travel to Bangladesh together after nearly 40 years and meet their relatives.”

Crafting these stories of love, the three of them were asked if there is a lack of simple love stories currently being made in Hindi cinema. Collin feels that a lot of good love tales are coming out from regional cinema and mentions the Kannada films Sapta Saagaradaache Ello – Side A and Side B as his personal favourites in recent times. Akshay is hopeful about seeing more stories of love come out of the mainstream and Shazia feels that now is the time for more love stories. “Bollywood is known for love stories and we need to get that back in trend. We need love now more than ever.”

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