Blue Flower: What made activist Sunil Babu Pant become a filmmaker?

Blue Flower
A scene from Blue Flower.

Sunil Babu Pant had just founded the Blue Diamond Society when he met a gay man who told him his family had forced him to get married to a woman despite him not wanting to. This plagued Pant a lot, who, while growing up in Gorkha, faced something similar.

“I was put under pressure but got out because I was financially independent and educated, but not everyone is as fortunate as me,” says Pant.

This story had been on his mind for a long time and in 2012, after leaving the Constituent Assembly to take care of his partner, he started to write the man’s story down. He wanted to make a film on the issue and after nearly a decade of writing the story for the film, Pant, on Wednesday, premiered Blue Flower in Kathmandu.

The film is very simple. It tells the story of Tilak, a young gay man from rural Nepal who is forced to get married by his mother who tells him she will kill herself if he runs away again. The marriage not only affects Tilak but also Urmila, his wife, who is shocked and disappointed in Tilak for not telling her he was homosexual.

The force of the forced marriage

In Blue Flower, their marriage, as predicted, is not a happy one. Tilak prefers to sleep on the floor. He does not want to have sexual relations with Urmila, which means the two cannot have a baby. That brings questions from society and it vilifies her and calls her a witch.

“This still happens. I wanted to show the impact of forced marriage on a woman too, who has to live a horrible life,” says Pant.

The story of Blue Flower is based on what happens in rural Nepal, but this issue, according to Pant, is also prevalent in urban areas like Kathmandu, especially in elite households. But, unlike in the villages, things can be hidden in cities with relative ease.

“Our society has become progressive to an extent where we talk about same-sex marriage, sexual identity and people from the transgender community getting citizenship, but we rarely talk about the impact of forced marriage in our society. That is what I’ve tried to highlight in Blue Flower,” he says.

And, to an extent, he has been successful. He has tried to show how society is.

Abnormality of norms

The film does not have many dialogues, but two words almost sum up the movie – sorry and prestige/reputation.

Tilak and Urmila both say “sorry” a lot while society keeps reminding Tilak how he has ruined the prestige/reputation of his father and the family.

“This happens even today. How our patriarchal society has defined certain norms for all of us to live by and when we don’t do what we are told, we’re vilified and ostracised.”

One cannot watch Blue Flower from a sexual perspective as it does not focus on it as much. While the gay man and his struggles are evident, the film focuses on the impact of forced marriage on the life of the woman.

It shows how women need to sacrifice even when they are not in a happy marriage and abide by societal norms just because of their gender. While Tilak is also attacked by society for not being ‘man enough’, Urmila faces constant attack and is deemed useless just because she has not been able to bear a child.

Focus on the female

During a few screenings of Blue Flower, Pant has been asked why he chose to tell the story of a gay man and not a lesbian woman.

“I don’t have a concrete answer to that question because such a story hasn’t come to be now. But, I can’t imagine how dark that movie will be given how patriarchal our society is and the adversaries how the woman must have faced.”

Blue Flower also shows has a bisexual character in a manner showing the audience that they can be found everywhere in society. There are also some transgenders in the film, but their roles are limited.

“I made this film from a feminist angle to show how forced marriages not only affect gay men but also women. There are other representatives from the LGBTIQ++ community, but their roles are small but still important,” he says.

The film’s technicalities

Blue Flower is emotional. The issue Pant has tried to touch on is important but critically, there are a few drawbacks. The acting is one. The actors have tried their best, but there are times the actors look out of depth.

When asked if the actors, including the lead, are from the LGBTIQ++ community, Pant says he did not ask as they were chosen by the casting director.

“I think they did well,” he says.

Camera-wise, they have pulled off some good shots, particularly that last one that shows how Tilak’s middle path has led him to a life of uncertainty.

“Blue Flower doesn’t show a solution. The characters have tried to find a solution, but will it work for everyone? I don’t know,” he says.

Pant hopes the film creates a discourse not just in urban areas, but also in rural Nepal. The support he has received from the government bodies has been great so far, but he feels this issue needs to be talked about more for people’s perceptions to change.

“I hope Blue Flower can educate policymakers too because this issue will remain prevalent unless the policies aren’t brought to stop it,” he says. 

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Pant is an independent journalist based in Kathmandu. He covers issues ranging from tech, music, mountains, biodiversity and environment.

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