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Prem Soni returns with Laila Manju after 8 years of sabbatical, shares his untold journey of battling depression

Prem Soni untold journey of battling depression

After eight years of long break, writer-director Prem Soni is back with a bang with Laila Manju, which is touted to be India’s first mainstream film on drag culture. The director is all set to explore the subject of drag queens with his next, Laila Manju that featuring debutants Shashank Vyas of Balika Vadhu fame, Abhimanyu Tomar and Miss India Diva 2018 Nehal Chudasama. It revolves around two Southall boys, who participate in a beauty contest.

Prem, who earlier helmed Main Aur Mrs Khanna (2009) and Ishkq In Paris (2013) is making his comeback says, “Since I am coming back after a long time, it was important that my film offers a novel idea. It is India’s first mainstream drag [feature] film. Unfortunately, there is not much awareness of the subject in India. The drag culture has been embraced in the West, where they have stand-up comedians, singers and performers.” If RuPaul with his appearances and the wildly popular reality competition series RuPaul’s Drag Race brought global attention to the community, the culture is slowly gaining momentum in India with Keshav Suri’s Kitty Su hosting local and international drag performers, in its bid to encourage inclusivity.

“The idea is to tell the audience that we cannot discriminate basis one’s skin colour or sexual preference or style of dressing. For long, homosexuality was not considered ‘normal’ when in fact, we [who carry this prejudice] are the ones who need to shed our layers of conflict,” he adds.

The past eight years weren’t a cakewalk for Prem Soni while narrating his untold journey, he shares, “ I battled depression after my films Main Aur Mrs Khanna and Ishkq in Paris did not receive a favourable response at the box office. “Post 2013, I was in severe depression and went through a suicidal phase. These eight years were tough for me. So many people came up to me and said, ‘Your career is over. You can’t rebuild it now.’ I went through so many rejections. People stopped talking to me. They did not even have the compassion to understand that if a film does not work, it does not mean that the person is not talented. Even after 14 years in the industry, I have not been accepted here, it could be because my films didn’t work, or because I am an outsider. The only person who supports outsiders is Salman Khan and I am thankful to him for supporting me.”

The film, which also features Iulia Vântur, Farida Jalal, Jimmy Sheirgill, Niki Aneja Walia, Rajit Kapur and Mahesh Manjrekar in key roles, will throw a spotlight on the LGBTQIA+ community.