Director Prem Soni makes comeback with Laila Manju
The project is touted to be India's first mainstream film on drag culture.
After an eight-year break, writer-director Prem Soni is making a comeback with a new film. Titled Laila Manju, Soni’s upcoming feature is touted to be India's first mainstream film on drag culture. It will feature debutants Shashank Vyas (of Balika Vadhu fame), Abhimanyu Tomar, and Miss India Diva 2018 Nehal Chudasama. The story revolves around two Southall boys participating in a beauty contest. The cast includes Iulia Vântur, Farida Jalal, Jimmy Sheirgill, Niki Aneja Walia, Rajit Kapur and Mahesh Manjrekar.
“Since I am coming back after a long time, it was important that my film offers a novel idea,” Soni says. “It is India's first mainstream drag [feature] film. Unfortunately, there is not much awareness about the subject in India. The drag culture has been embraced in the West, where they have stand-up comedians, singers and performers.”
“The idea is to tell the audience that we cannot discriminate basis one's skin colour or sexual preference or style of dressing. For long, homosexuality was not considered 'normal' when in fact, we [who carry this prejudice] are the ones who need to shed our layers of conflict,” he adds.
Prem had previously directed Main Aur Mrs. Khanna (2009) and Ishkq In Paris (2013). He was diagnosed with cancer of the gallbladder in 2012 but recovered.
“Post 2013, I was in severe depression and went through a suicidal phase,” Prem shares. “These eight years were tough for me. So many people came up to me and said, 'Your career is over. You can't rebuild it now.' I went through so many rejections. People stopped talking to me. They did not even have the compassion to understand that if a film (Ishkq in Paris) does not work, it does not mean that the person is not talented. Even after 14 years in the industry, I have not been accepted here, it could be because my films didn't work, or because I am an outsider. The only person who supports outsiders is Salman Khan and I am thankful to him for supporting me.”