No more lampooning, Bollywood embraces gay characters
As the world observes International Day against Homophobia tomorrow, we talk to Bollywood celebrities and discuss how the portrayal of homosexuals in films have changed over years.bollywood Updated: May 16, 2016 15:28 IST
There was a time when films such as Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya (1998) lampooned people from the LGBT community through characters who were manily sidekicks, had overtly feminine gait and were primarily in the films to evoke laughter. And until very recently, in films such as Student of the Year, a homosexual man played by actor Rishi Kapoor is also melodramatic.
But all this while, there have been films which have had a more realistic portrayal of LGBT characters, although they weren’t considered mainstream films or weren’t from a big banner. For instance, Fire (1996, banned in India), Water (2005, banned in India), Angry Indian Goddesses (2015) and Dear Dad (2016), which have done justice to a non-hetrosexual character’s portrayal. However, in the last two years, the box office saw many mainstream films which had characters from LGBT community portrayed with sensitivity, and have taken up problems of so-far marginalised people in a more real sense. Case in point being films like Margarita with a Straw (2015), Kapoor & Sons (2016) and Aligarh (2016)
Many popular actors had reportedly rejected actor Fawad Khan’s role in the film Kapoor & Sons because the character was a homosexual. And Fawad had made a point saying those worrying about taking up such roles would probably become more acceptable of others. “Even if someone plays a character like that, why will he or she become an outcast? Give it some years, and things will become normal. In the future, everyone who gets worried about these things (homosexuality) will learn to accept them. If someone is a certain way, he or she just is,” says Fawad Khan.
Actor Sidharth Malhotra, who played Fawad’s brother in the film, feels it is a positive change.
“We decided not to go overboard with his character and people enjoyed it. This surprised us also in a way. This means that times have changed and we can portray and entertain people without selling them something that’s over the top. This is encouraging. We got the point across in a natural way,” says Malhotra.
Filmmaker Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh got tremendous critical acclaim for the subtle portrayal of a gay professor’s life and the problems he had faced. “The year 2016 has been a significant year in the depiction of homosexual characters. Otherwise the representations were very far and flattered. Between last year and now there are more examples where homosexuality has been dealt in an intelligent way. There is a shifting understanding that it cannot be represented in caricaturist way. Finally we have to understand that you cannot determine how a person is by his sexual orientation.”
However, filmmaker Onir, who has helmed films on homosexuals such as My Brother Nikhil and I AM, feels that a permanent change is yet to happen. “Honestly I don’t know how far mainstream Bollywood has changed. There are few films which are different and that has always been there. Nothing has majorly changed. 10 years ago I did My Brother Nikhil, so tell me how Aligarh is anyway different. My film I Am has been much more upfront than any of the recent films but we always forget what has been done in the past. Having said that, I am really thrilled that there are films like Aligarh and Kapoor & Sons,” says Onir.