Aleem Khan is the director of the short film Diana, which was premiered at The 23rd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in April.
Diana takes place the day after the Princess of Wales’ death and follows Mohit, an Indian pre-op transsexual on an emotional journey set against the backdrop of a day that shocked a nation and will change his life forever.
Rejected by his family in India and working as a prostitute in London to pay for his hormone therapy, Mohit’s past continues to scar his life and he strongly relates to the isolation and loneliness suffered by the Princess. It is this connection that binds Mohit so closely to this iconic figure and ultimately acts as a catalyst in helping Mohit set himself free.
“It wasn’t a conscious decision to set the film 1997 or have the Diana theme run throughout. All I knew is that I wanted to write a film about a pre-op transsexual who has to come to terms with who he is and the rejection from his family. As I was writing the film I felt it needed some grounding and a twist that would make it appealing.
Setting the film at this time raises the idea of change and new beginnings, which is what Diana is essentially about. I realized quickly the similarities between Princess Diana and Mohit: both shared experiences of isolation, rejection, and both exist very much of the fringes of society. There is a strong connection that binds the two and Mohit aspires to be like the Princess because she represents beauty, strength and above all, a free spirit.
I didn’t set out with an agenda or a plan to change the world. My aim was to make a film that people could relate to in some way. In our lives we have all suffered from some kind of rejection, isolation or loss.
It was hard to cast the film. I auditioned a number of transvestites because I felt that I might have got a more authentic performance. I was wrong, and I was incredibly lucky to have found Neeraj Singh, who plays Mohit. As soon as he walked into the auditioning room he blew me away, firstly, by his amazing androgyny and secondly how well he understood the character.
The film had its premiere at The 23rd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival and I’m thrilled with how well the film has been received so far. Since Diana’s premiere in London it’s been invited to show at numerous festivals around the world including New York, LA, Milan and Lisbon.
What’s so valuable about making short films is that they allow you to make the mistakes that you can’t afford to in features. They’re also a perfect training ground to hone your skills and develop your style as a director and as a storyteller. You also have a lot more creative freedom because not so many people are investing their money in you. However, saying that, feature films are definitely what I’m working towards.”
You can watch the trailer for Diana in Aleem’s posts in Sound & Vision here: