How a tender film about childhood sweethearts became queer by chance: ‘Gender doesn’t really matter’

A promo still of actors Madhyama Halder and Satakshi Nandy from the short film Honey. (Supplied)

Kolkatan-born siblings Tanvi and Tanmay Chowdhary wanted to explore the vibrancy of Kolkata in Honey, their new short film centered around queer love.

The film, currently airing at BFI London Film Festival, follows two women, Satakshi (Satakshi Nandy) and Madhu (Madhyama Halder) who first meet in childhood and reunite years later for one night at the annual Hindu festival, ‘Durga Puja’.

The film has three key aspects woven throughout; a diary entry written by Madhu from when she first meets Satakshi as a child, the present moment as they explore the festival as adults and a postcard written by Satakshi to Madhu six years in the future. 

The Chowdhary siblings had originally written the story to trace the love story between a man and a woman.

The male actor was not available,” they tell PinkNews. “We were like, ‘OK, what is the next best option?'”

Madhu (L) looks at Satakshi (R) in Honey.

Madhu (L) and Satakshi (R) take time out in Honey. (Supplied)

When Satakshi suggested her friend, Madhyama, everything started to fall into place.

“Gender doesn’t really matter,” they say, “we didn’t have to change anything.”

In fact, Tanmay adds it was “a blessing in disguise making the film an experience that evolved beyond our imagination and take a life of its own, with a lot left for the viewer to interpret.”

Madhyama and Satakshi brought their skill to the screen, naturally translating their lines into conversational Bengali and their chemistry is undeniable. 

“It is about inconsequential moments and conversations,” Tanvi says, “but if you look back on them a few days, months or years later, you realise they were actually really valuable. They were real, honest, genuine moments shared between these two characters.”

She continues: “I struggle with longing quite a bit. I was hoping the audience would feel this longing but also find hope in it as well.

“Yearning can be a beautiful feeling, which you get attached to and you don’t want it to end because there is a delight to it.

“Even the characters are reuniting in this city after a long time. It’s for anyone who goes back to their roots and feels like it is not the same or something has shifted.”

Tanmay added: “It’s a love letter to our city, because although we were born here, it is constantly changing.”

Satakshi on the Ferris wheel. (Honey/Tanmay/Tanvi Chowdhary)

Satakshi is all smiles when she goes on the Ferris wheel. (Honey/Tanmay/Tanvi Chowdhary)

One of the most impactful moments in the film is when Satakshi and Madhu go on a Ferris wheel together and we see their unbridled exhilaration.

For Tanvi and Tanmay this is the tipping point of Honey where both Satakshi and Madhu let down their guard and revel in the connection they have with one another. 

“That whole sequence you see their different perspectives and how they are freed up, and visually and emotionally it becomes the fabric of the film,” Tanmay says. 

At its core, over 13 minutes Honey gives a tender look at unspoken love, longing and a deep bond between two women that transcends words and years.