Private Project

Strange Love

Ajeeb Aashiq // Strange Love chronicles shape shifting in a city that constantly changes. Khush and Suman’s lives intersect in a contemporary portrait of Mumbai. Unrequited love, betrayal, and friendship underlie the larger narrative of city hustle in the thriving megalopolis known as maximum city. The film explores the craze of Bollywood and the raw talent that feeds it.

A stylish working class transgender man, Khush desires to transform his female body into that of the muscular Bollywood film stars he admires. He works various jobs as a rickshaw driver, pimp and costume design assistant to fund his gender transition. The film chronicles his journey of becoming a man through the intake of male hormones against the backdrop of a tale of friendship and heartbreak.

A musician, Suman longs to find her creative voice away from the exploitative Bollywood industry practices. Post a relationship break-up; she discovers her artistic practice through active engagement and critique of hetero-patriarchy and right wing politics in India.

Ajeeb Aashiq // Strange Love investigates how attitudes to love, sex and relationship are informed by the entertainment industry. The intimate gaze paints the portrait of a city hanging in the balance, skewed by poverty and class divide on the one hand, united on the other hand by the characters’ longing and pursuit of a utopia.

  • Natasha Mendonca
    Director/ Producer
  • natasha mendonca
  • Suman Sridhar
  • Natasha Mendonca
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Ajeeb Aashiq
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Feature
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 15 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 1, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    33,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
    English, Hindi
  • Shooting Format:
    16mm and HD
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Internation film festival Rotterdam
    February 1, 2016
    World Premiere
    nominated for the Bright Future Award
Director Biography - Natasha Mendonca

Natasha Mendonca (Amal) is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist from Bombay, India. S/he holds a B.A from St. Xavier's College, Bombay in Sociology and Anthropology and a Masters in Film and Video from the California Institute of the Arts.

Their previous film Jan Villa, won the Tiger award for short film at The International Film Festival Rotterdam 2011, the Ken Burns award for the Best of the festival at the Ann Arbor Film Festival 2011, A residency award at the Southern Panoramas competition, Video Brazil 2011 and the Best Film of the festival, Experimenta, India 2011.
Her work has shown at the Museum of Modern Art PS1, (USA), Centre Pompidou (France), Tate Modern (U.K), Instituto Tomie Ohtake (Brazil), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (USA), NGBK (Germany) among others. Her artistic collaborations include works with artists like Olafur Eliasson and Ai Weiwei.
Ajeeb Aashiq is their debut feature film on gender, class and labor. The film received the Hubert Bals digital production fund, 2011 and was selected to be part of Open Doors at the Locarno Film Festival 2011.

In 2003, s/he overcame India’s tough censorship laws around homosexuality and co-founded Larzish - the nation’s first international film and video film festival on sexuality and gender based in Bombay, India. S/he has also programmed for other festivals including the Berlin Lesbian Film festival and Queer Zagreb, Croatia and s/he was on the Teddy Jury, Berlin International Film Festival in 2004.

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Director Statement

The visual style for AJEEB AASHIQ is a hybrid between documentary and fiction. I draw from a rich, complex, and original reality, and then framed it within a fictional story. I invested in exploring the physical and psychological landscape by collaborating with non-actors on contemplative, highly stylized reflections of their actual lives. Suman is a singer working in Bollywood; Khush is a transgender man who works various odd jobs to survive; and the city of Mumbai is one of the most populous cities in India. Within the context of this multi-layered story, each character also serves as a metaphor for larger contemporary social issues.

Shot in a slow burn trance-like style using cinema verité as a method, meaning is gathered through the slow accumulation of visual and aural detail. This challenges the viewer and points to the limits of traditional forms of representation. The process also suggests inventive strategies of staging and reenactment of events made interesting by the collaboration between non-actors and the filmmaker. As a director, I had to win the trust of my characters while remaining unobtrusive and allowing the characters comfort with the camera on their own terms. This combination of intimacy and distance brings about a compassionate solidarity with the characters and an authentic representation of their life.

As an auteur, I am keen to gather the living force within a community into the collective effort of cinema. This film entered people’s lives, and they entered the film in equal measure. AJEEB AASHIQ is, at heart, a portrait of real people and of a real city. I hoped to spark a playful rumination on the creative process as this approach produces a cinema of liminal imagery that blends boundaries. Truth and fiction are intermingled. It understands that the introduction of fact does not necessarily make fiction more real but possibly more strange. AJEEB AASHIQ asks viewers to embrace this formal and conceptual hybridism as a strategy meant not so much to dupe, mislead, or mock, but to offer a different critique and documenting tactic, one which can address the irreducibly complex realities of globalization.