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Sex, truth and videotape August 15, 2007

Posted by qmediawatch in Indian Express, Movies.
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Sex, truth and videotape

Homosexual films are often about HIV, but the gay community’s okay

http://cities.expressindia.com/archivefullstory.php?newsid=250716&creation_date=2007-08-13

Georgina maddox
Two boys meet, date, fall in love (and lust) and then, there is the all-important shot where one of the lovers reaches for the rubber. The underlying public service message, of having safe sex, cannot be missed. Almost every queer film that has made it to a multiplex or film festival, not only gets its funding but a good rating at the marquee, when HIV is the agenda. While this reinforces the link between queer and HIV/ AIDS, it seems to be the need of the hour.

From Onir’s sleeper hit My Brother Nikhil to Ashish Sawhny’s Happy Hookers and most recently 68 Pages, a film by Shridhar Rangayan (his Gulabi Aaina also had the protagonist deal with HIV), the message seems to be the same.

Ashok Row Kavi, founder of the Humsafar Trust, believes it to be a complex situation. “Men who have sex with men (MSM) and Trans-genders (TG) are most vulnerable, after IV drug users and sex workers,” he says. “Figures show that one out of 10 gay men will be HIV-positive.”

Vickram, of Gay Bombay, says cinema is an influential tool. “Any film that shows gay sex should show a condom,” he says. “At the risk of stereotyping, I think its okay to propagate HIV awareness.”

A telling scene is in Sawhny’s Happy Hookers, where a young gay sex worker talks about pleasing his client without a condom. The 22-year-old migrant worker has only seen HIV campaigns for heterosexual couples and actually believes he is not at risk.

“It came as a shock that a lot of them feel they aren’t at risk,” says Sawhny.

Kavi also delineates several stress factors that somehow pressure MSM into having unsafe sex. A gay married man operates underground and surreptitiously. A cross-dresser is open to stigma and blackmail. “A queer sex worker bares the social stigma while some are bound by caste (like the Bedias in UP), who are criminalised and stigmatised.”

Rangayan’s 68 Pages highlights the use of condoms even if one is monogamous. “One of our protagonists finds out that his lover was having sex with other men,” says Rangayan. It also holds true that 80 per cent women in India, who are monogamous, think their men are being faithful.