Homosexuality coming out of closet in Bollywood
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The film industry has had a long tradition of comic sequences or songs featuring effeminate and cross-dressing male stars. One of Sanjeev Kumar's avatars in the 1970s blockbuster 'Naya Din Nayee Raat' was that of an effeminate character. Amitabh Bachchan donned a sari in 'Laawaris'. But these portrayals have been largely perceived as elements of comic relief and don't interfere with the main plot.
This was replaced by films like Deepa Mehta's 'Fire' and Onir's 'My Brother Nikhil' that made conscious efforts to break the stereotypical representation, but were categorised as 'parallel' cinema. However, the current wave of films, like 'Fashion' and 'Dostana', may be able to bring the topic of homosexuality to the forefront and into mainstream cinema.
In Karan Johar's 'Dostana' that releases next month, the Bollywood hunks and lead actors, Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham, pretend to be a couple in a bid to rent an apartment in Miami. Madhur Bhandarkar's recent release, Fashion, in one of its sub-plots, has Harsh Chayya and Samir Soni play a homosexual fashion designer-couple.
This may just be an indication of the acceptance of queers by the audience. Says Bhandarkar: "My characters are real people, and not caricatures. And the audience will not accept them as normal if we stereotype them." Bhandarkar's film 'Page 3' also included a gay sub-plot wherein the protagonist Konkana SenSharma's lover is involved with her best friend. These representations of hunky men with queer tendencies are indeed symbolic of the change.
Nandita Das, who acted in 'Fire', acknowledges the change but feels that "misrepresentation or derogatory connotations by Bollywood can stigmatise the community and force them to remain closeted". Her co-star in Fire, Shabana Azmi, also feels the need for strong scripts to kick up the debate. Azmi was also part of 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd', where one of the couples split after the husband confesses to being a closet homosexual.