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Unfurling the rainbow flag July 9, 2008

Posted by qmediawatch in English, Lesbian, Pride 2008 - New Delhi.
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Unfurling the Rainbow Flag

Paromita-Chakrabarti

Posted online: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 at 10:37:53
Updated: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 at 10:37:53

Coming out in movies, plays and literature is no longer as difficult as it once was. Ask Amruta Patil who drew a lesbian protagonist in Kari or Sameer Thakur who staged a gay play

When Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra rode a 1939 Norton, singing Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge, 33 years ago, they didn’t realise that one day its YouTube clip would get a response, “Is this a gay Indian movie?” After the macho men became the unwitting heroes of male bonding in prudish India, it took decades for Karan Johar to even joke about homosexuality with Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan in a bedroom in faraway New York. Now in Miami, Tarun Mansukhani is busy shooting Dostana, produced again by Johar. The film, which has Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham in the lead besides Priyanka Chopra, is a slight deviation from the usual candyfloss romances Dharma Productions is famous for. It focuses on the bond the two men share, and a gay subtext ripples through the film.

Something has changed. And it is not just the Gay Pride Parade that happily moved on the streets of Delhi. The closets in mainstream art and literature are slowly being opened — and the public is not nonplussed.

A couple of days ago, when Sonali Gulati, a gay activist and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, US, screened five of her films on queers at the India Habitat Centre, they had a full house. On Thursday, filmmaker Sridhar Rangayan, will finally screen his feature film 68 Pages at the India International Centre. “We have received invites from smaller cities like Vadodara and Surat, which means we are penetrating deeper into the heterosexual psyche than before,” says the IIT-Mumbai alumnus.

In the bold and brilliant lines of her graphic novel Kari, Delhi-based Amruta Patil has drawn a lesbian protagonist. Released a few months back, the book has become a hit, at least for a graphic novel. Patil says she is hardly surprised. “I never thought it necessary to pitch Kari as a queer book. I know she will find her people, regardless of their sexuality. We undermine people’s ability to understand and identify with things. The audience is empathetic and vocal. It must make creative people less fearful of being gagged or lynched by the non-reading, non-moviegoing moral police,” she says.

Thirty-four-year-old playwright Sameer Thakur, whose city-based company Cathaayatra works towards sensitising people on sexual health, recently staged the play Perfect Relationship, on the escapades of three gay characters. And the play, surprisingly, was a runaway success. But Thakur is not sure this is a sign of things to come, a change in mindset. “Just because people like something on stage, it doesn’t mean that they will accept it in real life,” he says. Gulati agrees: “I don’t think that seeing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender representations in art galleries and exclusive theatres in urban cities accounts as mainstream. I will believe it when I see queer images plastered on billboards, on buses, along train tracks through rural India, when we switch on the TV and see a lesbian in a soap opera or an advertisement.” But there’s one thing they all agree on. Coming out in movies, plays and literature is no longer as difficult as it once was, not even in Delhi.

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