The insensitive portrayal of gay characters in Bollywood has always been fodder for debate, but this time, reality TV seems to have trumped movies to it. It’s the sexual jokes and remarks on VJ Andy and yoga trainer-actor Vivek Mishra on reality show Bigg Boss 7 that is stirring up a storm, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights activists are livid.
On the show, the other participants constantly pass lewd remarks on the two effeminate men, calling them names such as chhamiya, chhakka and meetha that are discriminatory and derogatory.
"We have received many complaints from viewers regarding different episodes of Bigg Boss 7. Our next meeting is scheduled for November 1, where we will take up the issue,” says an official from Broadcasting Content Complaints Council. “Whether we talk about TV or Bollywood, no normalisation is happening for this community when in fact both these mediums can make a change,” says LGBT activist Maya-Lisa Shanker.
Interestingly, while the participants in the show have been penalised for use of abusive words and English language in the house, there has been no action against such remarks, and the footage is not edited out. “It’s actually not the fault of the fellow contestants but of the makers who let this go on. Why is there no penalty for such acts?” asks author-activist Saleem Kidwai.
Gay rights worker Mohnish Kabir Malhotra says the TRP game is to blame for this. “May be 15 years ago, the joke was about sardars and now it’s about us! They just need a topic to make the show gimmicky. It’s just part of the stupid TRP hike. It’s totally unacceptable and there is no reason to make a deal of one’s personal life,” he says.
Some, however, feel the victims are equally to blame, and it’s up to them to quit the show. “I don’t know what’s stopping these guys from walking out on grounds of self-respect!” says Minna Saran, filmmaker-activist. The host channel, Colors, did not comment on the matter.
Stop that, say activists
It is unfortunate that TV and films often make fun of a community. There has to be collective evolution that leads to what is acceptable humour.
—Sharif Rangnekar, theatre-actor and activist
They just need a topic to make the show gimmicky. It’s just part of the stupid TRP hike.
—Mohnish Kabir Malhotra, LGBT activist