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Review: 'Vilom' Tough Going at First, but Proves Rewarding

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Thursday Sep 17, 2020
Review: 'Vilom' Tough Going at First, but Proves Rewarding

"Vilom," a queer Indian film from first-time writer/director Sunder Pal, is one of those movies that demands a great deal of patience from the viewer for the whole first half. A combination of stiff acting and an equally wooden script makes it actually painful to sit through. But stick with it, and you will be rewarded with a heartbreaking sociological drama that is a fierce indictment of the on/off/on way that homosexuality was eventually decriminalized in India.

The film is set between 2009 and 2013 in Chandigarh, India. Pal, who is also an actor, plays the title role of Vilom, a YouTuber who is confused not only about his sexuality, but also his path in life. He meets Amay (Navpreet Moti),  a handsome hairdresser who has just moved into town from his village to escape his interfering parents.

Although Amay has accepted his sexuality, the two men court at a snail's pace until an unsure Vilom suddenly blurts out, 'Do you want to move in?"

Living together is not an issue (as long as Amay can keep his parents in the dark), but public displays of affection are,  and this is what gets them into real trouble. 

Even though India's supreme court finally ruled that homosexual acts are legal, there has been an uncertain period in the country's recent past when a lower court overruled the government's bill initially legalizing same-sex intimate relations. 

During that time, many people publicly came out of the closet, only then to discover that they faced the real possibility of criminal charges.  Besides the legalities of the issue, there were also the attitudes of society to deal with, notably the police and other authorities charged with enforcing laws.

It was a rogue group of the latter that catch Vilom and Amay hand in hand late one night on a deserted road. Instead of officially arresting them, the police tie them up and assault them sexually and physically. This scene of sheer brutality reminds one that in a culture like India's, where corruption is rife, there is little chance of any victim getting justice or revenge - especially if they are gay, and even if it is legal.

Though tough to watch, the film makes us aware of the struggles that the LGBTQ community still face in certain parts of the world today.

The film's ending redeems our faith in Pal as a filmmaker, but to get his future work to the wider audience it deserves he needs to lose that woodenness.


Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.

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