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Ripples on the big screen December 23, 2008

Posted by nitinkarani in English, Movies.

From The New Indian Express:

By Chameli 

First Published : 13 Dec 2008 11:35:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 16 Dec 2008 12:25:12 PM IST


Bollywood films with gay themes depicting alternate sexuality with copious amounts of negative connotations and sleazy stereotypes are on the rise and the audience is lapping it up!

Even when movies are made with a specific gay theme (Fire, Girlfriend or Mango Souffle) it remains a depiction of an entire society and its interactions with itself and with those it considers on the outer periphery. To think that these niche films only portray the adventures of a few characters is being silly. These films and more mainstream flicks before them (Rules: Pyar ka Superhit Formula, Out of Control, Muskaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Main Hoon Na and more recently, Fashion and Dostana) go to show how Bollywood wants to come out of the closet but crawls right back in.

Watching Fashion, I realised that a “realistic” filmmaker like Madhur Bhandarkar in his quest to do things differently, flounders with a simple concept — ‘behaviour’. His research would have revealed that majority of gay people don’t necessarily have a pansy lisp (Designer Vinay Khosla) and not all of them are effeminate. I agree that some gays or lesbians can take on traits of the opposite sex but to constantly berate them with sleazy advances and devoid of any masculinity is insulting.  

Madhur Bhandarkar also conveniently uses the backdrop of the fashion world, again falling prey to the stereotype that most designers are gay. It is true that we have quite a few Indian designers who are gay, but the same can be said of a mechanic or a corporate honcho! There is no sect that specifically nurtures or attracts gay people. They can be from any and every walk of life. For example: Ellen Degeneres (TV host), Ashok Row Kavi (writer), Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil (royal heir, social worker), Chris Morgan (powerlifter), the list goes on.

Sometimes the effeminate portrayal of gays is forced into the story to cash in on trends and tickle the funny bone of the layman. Priyanka Chopra’s friend (Rohit) in Fashion did not have to be gay and so girly. It was so manufactured. Nor did Abhishek Bachan in Dostana have to be effeminate in some scenes. Indian audiences don’t attach any significance or value to these characters and identify them as chakkas. The catcalls in the cinema theatre are just an indication of how men cringe and women either love or hate them. Tarun Mansukhani, director of Dostana however feels “It is very important for any character in a film to have a journey. The journey in Abhishek’s case was that of perceptions and beliefs. He is not homophobic but unintentionally when representing himself as a gay man portrays himself as he imagines them. His view too is stereotypical. But as his character progresses in the film he finds out he has been wrong. His perceptions towards the gay community change. Thus completing his journey.”

A movie like Girlfriend, promoted as a lesbian-themed film shows one of the characters (Isha Koppikar) as a muscle-wielding toughie who can tear a man apart when he asks her on a date! Why can’t gay men or lesbians be seen as any other man or woman? Do gay men have to be effeminate and slap on litres of foundation and cross-dress? And do lesbians have to be out of the ordinary masculine women with tom-boy hair-dos?  

You can find a man like Akshay Kumar or an Arnold Schwarzenegger who is gay. Yes, I do agree that gay men can be effeminate but not all are. And not all lesbians are butch. Using gay communities as just comic-relief is demeaning to those who strive to be themselves, and to all those activists who toil to combat prompt governments to amend legislation.

Bollywood  pigeonholes alternate sexuality as a sleazy man sleeping with another man and a desperate woman unhappy in her marriage seducing another woman for gratification. This is unfair. Just the act of sex doesn’t define homosexuality. We love our long walks, visit places of worship, take a position on politics, and aspire for top-notch jobs. The only difference is gay men prefer another gay man to connect with – both mentally and physically.

Here is what they said:

Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha MP

It is appalling to see the negative portrayal of alternate sexualities and especially transgenders in our cinema. Our filmmakers should be more progressive and reflect reality and not pigeonhole these communities as being flamboyant or sleazy.

Ranvir Shah

Theatre and Arts Enthusiast

Dostana completely utilises the queer concept to insult innocent hetero-sexual bonding in our country. Madhur Bhandarkar with Fashion has reached the lowest ebbs of film-­making by being racist (when Priyanka is shown in bed with a black man) and makes a parody of all the known and unknown personalities from the fashion fraternity and paints their characters through a skewed lens. I would like to know why the censor board let scenes like these pass.

Karti P Chidambaram

Member, Indian Youth Congress

From the little I notice,  cinema does reiterate stereotypes of all kinds. I am sure alternative sexualities also suffer from this portrayal. Sensitivity is the need of the hour.

Soundarya Rajnikanth

Film Producer

I think it’s great for the film industry to explore new genres and scripts never attempted before in Indian cinema. I congratulate the film­makers of Dostana and Fashion, for handling such bold subjects. I think the very success and acceptance of these movies speak for itself.



Films like Fashion and Dostana help one discuss the topic of homo­sexuality. Aesthetically made films, whatever the concept, are welcome.



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