The sensitive portrayal of gay characters in popular TV soaps seems to be playing saviour for many who are not out of the closet yet. Actor Dakssh Ajit Singh, 30, who shot to fame for playing Gaurav, a gay character in Maryada: Lekin Kab Tak, a show on Star Plus, says, “A gay fan of mine from Delhi recently wrote to me saying that his mother loves this show, and after watching my role in it, she finally understood and stopped hounding him for marriage. She also stopped pestering him to change his ways.”
This isn’t the only change that has come about. “I get many messages from viewers who want suggestions on how to share their sexual orientation with their parents. They see their own lives reflected in Gaurav’s,” he says. The creative director and scriptwriter of the show, Damini Kanwal Shetty, says, “Initially, we were not sure how a character like Gaurav would be perceived by people. But we’re glad that he has been accepted so well. The acceptance of Gaurav is an indication of a mature society.”
Although there have been gay characters in Indian serials such as Mahie Way and Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi earlier, most of these roles have not been central to the main plot. In fact, gay characters were mostly only used to throw in some humour.
“With time, there has been progress, and TV only shows what’s happening in the society,” says gay rights activist Mohnish Malhotra. A member of community, Rajiv, says, “This change from showing gay characters in a frivolous light to portraying them in strong, serious roles marks the beginning of another era.”