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Fashion fails to find favour with glam (sic) world November 9, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Times of India.
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(Times of India)

8 Nov 2008, 0454 hrs IST, Mansi Choksi, TNN

MUMBAI: Madhur Bhandarkar’s depiction of the glamour world in his latest production, Fashion, has not only ruffled the world of haute couture but made eyes roll in the queer community as well.

If some fashionistas have booed the film as a dumbed down portrayal of their art, many gay people are cringing at what they describe as Bhandarkar’s “caricature and moralising”. Every fashion designer in the film is gay, they charge, and all of them effeminate. “The only guy not shown as a pansy is the one who succumbs to family pressure and ends up marrying a girl,” says Nitin Karani, trustee of Humsafar, an NGO that works with sexual minorities. “I felt very offended watching the film. I think he’s used the gay issue only for publicity and hasn’t done justice to it.”

A spokesperson for Gay Bombay says that while he had prepared himself for the film trading on homophobia (as many films tend to), he was shocked to find how racist it was. The protagonist of the film, Meghna Mathur, played by Priyanka Chopra, feels terrible for having had to sleep with a black man to become a supermodel. “I expected the film to be way worse than it was because most of Madhur Bhandarkar’s film are homophobic. You can’t escape stereotypes and this film too doesn’t deal with the emotional issues of the gay characters, and there are no layers of complexity,” he says. 
For some, the problem was with the flat and selective portrayal. “Where were all the instances of happy gay couples in the fashion world? There are several of those in the real world. Why is it that gay people are only portrayed as comedians and sad creatures?” asks the young author of a book on the gay community in Mumbai. 

Others are less critical. City-based gay rights activist Girish Kumar says the film was in line with the comfort level acceptable in the mainstream. “I don’t know if he’s done justice to the issue but I feel that it has been a step towards introducing the concept of sexual minorities in the mainstream,” says Kumar. 

An American lesbian, who has been living in the city for the two months and is learning Hindi, was mortified by the film. “I was feeling very uncomfortable throughout the film. Within the current Indian landscape, I don’t know whether these stereotypes will help in the fight against Section 377 which criminalises homosexuality in this country. I was extremely offended by the flat portrayal,” she says. 
Priyanka Bhatia of Stree Sangam (a feminist collective of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women) say that except for a handful of films, Bollywood has mostly damaged the fight against the law and reinforced the stereotypes. 

“The biggest problem I had with Madhur Bhandarkar’s other film, Page 3, was that he equated homosexuality with paedophilia. Homosexuality is about two adult men not adult men abusing children. Even the film Girlfriend (by another director) about same-sex love was a disaster.” 

Films that have got the thumbs up include Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, My Brother Nikhil and Rules (Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula). Some have a good word for Karan Johar’s attempt with Kantabai in Kal Ho Na Ho (the maid servant who suspects that the characters played by Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan are gay). “It was a progressive and playful joke. It wasn’t derogatory to gays in any way—in fact the joke was on Kantabai,” says the author. “I’m really looking forward to Dostana. John Abraham’s character is supposed to have a mother who is open to her son having a different sexual orientation.” 
mansi.choksi@timesgroup.com 

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