Yeh Freedom Life review – a passionate slice of queer Delhi life

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A n unnerving cacophony opens Priya Sen’s Yeh Freedom Life: it plunges straight into a health convention about women’s reproductive responsibilities. Lessons on childcare – demonstrated on creepy dolls – along with speeches on wifely and motherly duties are delivered in front of the camera. These reminders of compulsory heterosexuality recur throughout: in Ambedkar Nagar, a working-class area in South Delhi, they are plastered all over movie posters and permeate every household via long-running soap operas.

And yet queer love makes its voice known. Sachi and Parveen, the film’s subjects, yearn for the “freedom lives” where they can proudly flaunt their relationships with other women. Sachi, a beauty technician at an eyebrow-threading salon, adores her long-term girlfriend Sai and supports the latter’s plan to transition. Parveen, who works at a busy cigarette kiosk, has had her fair share of heartbreaks from lovers who have left her to marry. Eluding discussions of labels, Yeh Freedom Life looks at queer relationships in their most elemental ingredients: passion, jealousy and intimacy.

Echoing the central desire for liberation, the film has a free-form structure, flowing from one informal conversation to another. The long takes mean that the rapport among the women and their community is especially immersive, even to the point of occasional disorientation, as it can be difficult to infer the context of these discussions. But considering that the film was finished in the same year India’s supreme court overturned section 377 and decriminalised homosexuality, Yeh Freedom Life is an important document of a slice of queer life rarely captured onscreen.

Yeh Freedom Life is available on 30 July on True Story.

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