Shiv Pandit
Subhash K Jha (DNA; May 8, 2017)

We’ve seen the talented Shiv Pandit make a solid impact in Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitaan. Now the young actor returns in director Sudhanshu Saria’s Loev in a bold avatar as a closeted gay NRI yuppie, discovering and celebrating his sexual orientation in the company of a young out-of-the-closet gay young man, played by Dhruv Ganesh who died soon after the film was completed.

The film has some of the most explicit same-sex intimacy seen in cinema, including lengthy lip-locks between Shiv and Dhruv and a shocking rape sequence where Shiv’s character violates Dhruv in a hotel room. Shiv says he had no qualms shooting these scenes. “From the moment I heard the script I knew this was a film I had to do. For too long now I’ve been listening to others give me advice on how to conduct my career and what kind of roles to accept. Now for a change I wanted to listen to my own heart. Every instinct told me to go for the part.”

Didn’t the shooting of lovemaking scenes with Dhruv pose practical emotional and physical difficulties? Shiv admits it was tough. “Rape is equally reprehensible whether it happens to a man or a woman. What I did to overcome my revulsion was to not stand judgment over my character Jai’s action. I just went with how Jai reacted to the given situation.”

The rape and kissing scenes are shockingly graphic. Says Shiv, “What we shot was much more lengthy, graphic and with lots more nudity. The rape was far longer and all done in one take. The pivotal kiss between Dhruv and I was also much longer. Sudhanshu decided to cut both the scenes as he didn’t want the intimacy to overcome the relationship between the two protagonists. Shooting these scenes was tough and when they were cut I was disappointed. I was like, ‘Why did you make us go through it if you didn’t want it to be so lengthy?’ But we went completely by the director’s vision, and it came out effectively.”

Shiv confesses he has still not come to terms with Dhruv’s death. “He’s with us everywhere that Sudhanshu and I go with our film. It is impossible to accept that he’s gone. We’ve taken Dhruv’s parents with us to film festivals abroad. Seeing them, we are constantly reminded of Dhruv and the immense loss. One day he was with us, the next day he was gone.”

Not that Shiv had forged an exceptionally close bonding with Dhruv during the film’s shooting. “I deliberately kept a distance from him because my character Jai is constantly on the edge with Dhruv’s character Sahil. I saw Jai as repressed and stressed emotionally, professionally and sexually. I wanted that tension to come across in my relationship with Dhruv’s character. Bonding as buddies off screen would have taken away from the sexual tension between us on screen.”

Any reservations about having played a gay man? “None. I was advised against it. I was told my career would be finished if I play a gay character. On the contrary, I’ve never been more appreciated for any of my roles. My mother was initially taken aback when she saw the film. But she got the point better than people who believe an actor playing a homosexual would be branded unemployable.”