SUMMER in my VEINS- 1999 Documentary short about a Gay Indian coming out to his mother on camera by Nishit Saran

This a short documentary film (split in 2 parts for youtube) in which Nishit Sharan, a gay Indian who was studying film-making in Harvard, decided to film himself coming out to his mother, who was visiting him for graduation. He is also dealing with the anxiety of having slept with someone with HIV and during the film he is awaiting results. Shots where the aunties are joking about gays captured something that said quite a lot in a few shots; the innocent brutality in sheltered conservative lives. I didn’t feel animosity towards these women, for whom the very idea of being gay is as foreign as intergalactic space travel…but I recognized in them the same sort of conversations that you hear across different parts of middle class India…where there is time to pass and it is often passed through bitching sessions which can seen totally innocent…till you realize that the “other” whom you are deriding could be none other than your own son, nephew or another one close to you.

Summer in My Veins Part 1:

I find it very powerful in its simplicity. What he went through is something quite standard for gay, lesbian and queer Indians living anywhere in the world; the guilt and anxiety and question of whether or not to come out to your family, when the right time is, and how to do it. Some people avoid it all-together, choosing to marry a chosen spouse or to marry another member of the gay/lesbian community of the opposite sex, so that both parties might resolve the familial pressure without sacrificing their sexuality. One never knows how a parent will react…as middle class India is, at best condescending about it and at worst, repulsed and prepared to disown a child. So the question lingers, if one were to come out…when? Where? How? Nishit used a camera to do it…and its hard to tell how exactly the camera is functioning. It may be interesting to think about how the camera functions here. One reading might be that by inviting a public gaze into this, his most guarded family secret, he completely depersonalizes his own problem, attempting to universalize it, and play out one of the greatest fears held by so many people who anticipate the moment of “coming out.”

Summer in My Veins Part 2:

Another reading of how the camera functions might be to think of it as a receptacle (like Dumbledore’s pensieve), that invites the person on the other side to confess and empty their thoughts in a performative manner- certainly for every person who is aware they are being filmed, there is a heightened sense of activity…just a slight exaggeration of how you imagine yourself in the every-day-ness of things. Through that awareness that you are being recorded you measure out what you do just a little more clearly….it is like Neitszche’s idea of eternal return in metaphor- if you were to live your life assuming that each and every gesture you make might be repeated over and over again, as if you were to live your life as if this- this very moment- as you are reading my words, is what you might do again in exactly the same way, when you die, and your life- a record- were to be played on the phonograph with exactly the same mistakes, boredoms, and repetitions as you had made in your first shot at existence…..this is precisely what a camera does….it creates a metaphor for eternal return…you can play the tape over and over again and though your interpretation of the content may change…those gestures and words flicker cyclically…they become like engravings on the mausoleum of your remembered self…and in a moment as crucial as the day you announce your sense of self to your community…the camera becomes a way of ritualizing, heightening, and emblazoning the event within the moment of its conception and ever after.

To make matters more poignant, after making this film, which was successfully doing the festival rounds, and Nishit was becoming the toast of the town- a young hopeful who was expected to produce more fine documentaries and films, some of which may have developed more of a niche for queer cinema and docu-dramas in India…he was tragically hit by a drunken truck driver near Connaught place while he and some of his friends were driving home from a party late at night. I was stunned when I made the connection and realised that this accident was the same one that claimed the life of a friend of mine, Pooja Mukherjee, who was then a successful young VJ (music video D J), and who was riding in the car when it was smashed, not very far from where I used to live in Delhi. His mother and father have set up a foundation in his memory.

The Foundation is managed by Minna Saran and Col Raj Saran, other members of the Saran family and friends of Nishit. Beginning with the Nishit Saran Award at Army Public School and the memorial site on Lodi Road, the foundation is now expanding its work by supporting young film makers, curating and traveling with Nishit’s films, beginning an annual film festival, and extending counseling vis-à-vis sexuality for parents.

That above quote is from the website of the Nishit Saran Foundation and here is one written by his mother::

In Summer in my Veins, Nishit filmed the moment when he told me about his sexuality, that he was gay. I don’t think any other parent would have quite that kind of coming out moment, but in their own way, our children are always talking to us, trying to tell us about their lives, even when they can’t say it out in so many words. Sometimes it is us who cannot bring ourselves to listen, or to even realize that there is something in the minds of our children they cannot share with us.

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7 Comments

  1. […] My Brother Nikhil, Page 3, Fire, etc. And of course there was Nishit Saran’s documentary “Summer in my Veins.” Although Abhishek strikes me as being about as hetero as they come, married as he is to […]

  2. A deeply touching portrayal of the powerful simplicity of Desi family life; the prevading bond of love that serves as the underpinning to all the expressed repartie and bias about homosexuality in this instance.
    As a desi viewer, one cannot help but identify with each of the characters in this touching human documentary, to empathize with each of them, only to find that the most endearing person through it all, our Nishu-beta, is killed in the end. All the more tragic is this event, because one clings to his suspence, to breathe a sigh of relief, the breath of a new life, when his test comes back negative!!
    What an irony that Nishit dies. As one wafts over the wave of sadness, one is made bouyant by the uplifting realization that through his death, Nishit becomes larger than life in the cause of Gay-Desi Recognition!
    Nishit-babu Amar Hai!

  3. thank you for your thoughts. I find that its the sort of documentary that one can’t help but return to again and again.

  4. DEAR NISHIT
    I JUST WATCHED UR WAY COMING OUT TO UR MOM AND LIKDE THE FULL FILM. IN OUR INDIAN CULTURE STILL HOMOSEXUALITY IS CONSIDERED BAD STILL UR MOM ACCEPTED IT OPEN HEARTIDILY. I BOW TO HER FEET. AND MORE THAN THAT TO U FOR COMING OUT TO YOUR MOM STRAIGHT WITHOUT ANY HITCH.
    IT SEEMS THAT SHE’S HUSRT BUT FOR UR HAPPINESS SHE HAS ACCEPTED U AS IT IS.
    THIS FILM IS HEART TOUCHING AND I LOVED IT A LOT

    YOURS A WELL WISHER
    DEEPAK

  5. I’m really touched by the film as well as the Foundation that has been opened in the memory of Nishit and his other siblings. The Foundation is doing a Noble and Pious job. And I wish Nishit was alive now, then Gays would have stand straight in India long ago. I wish peace for the godly soul of Nishit.

  6. oh its good


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