Deepa Mehta: Funny Boy

Director Deepa Mehta on adapting Shyam Selvadurai’s book, working with Ava DuVernay, and what she hopes viewers will take away from the film.

DGC Ontario Director Deepa Mehta’s Funny Boy will make its Canadian debut on CBC this Friday, December 4th. Funny Boy is Canada’s official submission for the 2021 Academy Awards for Best International Feature Film. Ahead of the film’s release, we caught up with the Governor General Performing Arts Award recipient to discuss adapting Shyam Selvadurai’s book, working with Ava DuVernay, and what she hopes viewers will take away from the film.

A scene from Funny Boy

Can you elaborate on how Funny Boy came to fruition? What was it about Shyam Selvadurai’s book that made you want to make a film? 

I met Shyam a couple of decades ago through a mutual friend on a project he was working on for television. Years later, after he had written Funny Boy, I tried to option the rights but they had already been scooped up. The book resonated with me so profoundly, about living through political and societal division, and how love is the only way through. I know there had been a couple of attempts to adapt the book but none of them panned out. To my delight, he approached me a few years ago to co-write the screenplay with him and to direct it. After 26 years, the book will finally make it’s screen debut!

A scene from Funny Boy

How did you get involved with Array Releasing to distribute the film?

The lovely Agam Darshi who plays Auntie Radha had just come off a project with Ava DuVernay, and she was excited to connect us. I was happy to simply show the film to Ava to hear her thoughts and to my great surprise she offered to distribute the film in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand. I am so grateful that the film spoke to her so deeply

Funny Boy was selected as Canada’s official submission for the 2021 Academy Awards for best international feature film. How does it feel to receive this honour? 

It’s amazing! I am mostly thrilled that this recognition will bring more North American awareness to the wonderful Sri Lankan actors we managed to find. 

A scene from Funny Boy

What message do you hope people take away from Funny Boy? 

At its heart, Funny Boy is about the oppression of minorities and how nothing good comes from hatred. We are all looking for love and acceptance for who we are – and in this way, our beloved Arjie is all of us.

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