• Tuesday, April 16, 2024

FEATURES

Festival short film ‘Halfway’ makes a towering statement about love

Kumar Chheda has delivered an English-language short film about a young queer couple in India going through a turbulent phase in their relationship

Chheda in ‘Halfway’

By: Asjad Nazir

THE strong south Asian contingent at this year’s BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival includes Halfway.

Kumar Chheda has delivered an English-language short film about a young queer couple in India going through a turbulent phase in their relationship, who need to make an important decision during a phone conversation.

The simple but effective story sees them ending up at the wrong entrances to the same beach and having to walk towards each other to meet halfway.

Eastern Eye caught up with the emerging writer and director, who has also acted in the film, to find out more.

What inspired the story of Halfway?

Love. This inexplicable phenomenon has been at the centre of my struggle to understand adulthood. Like most people, I too have been in love, suffered heartbreak and let people walk out of my life. This film is my attempt to live in an alternative reality. It’s an attempt to look at my own relationships in a more mature way and see if love can survive. It’s also an attempt to normalise queerness to such an extent that it’s not even a talking point anymore. I just wanted to show love as just love, without boundaries.

Is there a key message you want to convey with this film?

Halfway is quite literally about meeting halfway. The film tries to convey the idea that love is difficult, complicated and insecure, but whether you choose to make it work or not is absolutely up to you. If two people are ready to walk towards each other and meet halfway, then there’s still some hope.

Who are you hoping connects with this film?

I feel the film is thoroughly relatable. There is no single person I know who has been in love and hasn’t been at the point where Halfway is set. No matter if it’s romantic love, platonic love, or anything else, being in a place where giving up is easier than working on it is something we all can connect to.

Kumar Chheda

How do you feel about being part of BFI Flare?

I am absolutely thrilled. It’s such a big honour to be a part of a prestigious festival like this. Especially with a film like Halfway that is based on the idea of love. I feel BFI Flare is the perfect place for it to have its international premiere. I can already feel the love, nurture and support they give to their movies and filmmakers. I can’t wait to attend the festival in person.

Do you think cinema has the power to make a positive change?

One hundred per cent. I feel any form of mass communication has the power to bring about change.

As cinema has a story attached to it, our power is amplified. With Halfway, the story could have been about any couple, heterosexual or queer; it would have made no difference. And that is the true reason to make it about a queer relationship.

Tell us more about that premise.

Especially in a country like India, where being queer is still considered taboo. What a simple, relatable story does is make the audiences see themselves as the characters. The Asians back home, as well as people everywhere globally, would find a part of themselves in (the characters) Nakul and Saarth. If that makes even one member of the audience a little more accepting of queer relationships, then our job is truly done.

Who are the filmmakers you admire?

I love sensitive, nuanced, thought-provoking films, so I am a big fan of Middle Eastern and Japanese cinema. Asghar Farhadi is one of my greatest influences. Hirokazu Koreeda is another strong influence. I also love Reema Kagti’s writing and Aaron Sorkin is a forever mentor (at least, in my head).

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on my first feature film, titled Pech. I am trying to build it into an international co-production. I am also writing a commissioned feature, apart from creating a show. I hope to be back at Flare with a feature next year.

Why should we all come and watch this film at the festival?

Well, if you are in love, have been in love, are falling in love, or have ever fallen in love, then you should come watch Halfway. The film will take you on a journey to meet yourself and a loved one, and maybe revisit your relationship from a different perspective. It might just be the push you need to make things work – you never know.

The 38th BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival runs from March 13-24 at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player. Catch Halfway on March 17. www.bfi.org. uk/flare

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