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Cinema beyond taboos: Nine films that portray LGBTQ relations beautifully

On International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, here’s a look at Bollywood and Hollywood films that portray LGBTQ relationships in a beautiful way.

bollywood Updated: May 17, 2017 17:40 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
LGBT,LGBTQ,international day against homophobia
Films like Brokeback Mountain, Fire, Milk and Aligarh deal with various facets of LGBTQ communities.

May 17 is observed as International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia or IDAHOT Day. It marks World Health Organisation’s decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, since 1990. The day is celebrated in a bid to mobilise communities to protect LGBTQ rights. Events are organised to raise awareness and garner support. Love and support is pouring in for the communities from all around the world, from Cuba and Cyprus to Romania and Taiwan.

Some action from around the world:

While public and organisations are doing their bit, cinema has also endeavoured to bring LGBTQ (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) relationships into the limelight. Here’s a look at some Bollywood and Hollywood films that have tried to raise awareness about the subject.


A still from Deepa Mehta’s Fire, starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das.

In 1998, a film by Deepa Mehta starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das managed to ruffle feathers for all the right and ‘wrong’ reasons too. The story followed the loves of a pair of sisters-in-law, whose husbands had either taken an oath of celibacy, or found comfort in the arms of mistresses.


A still from Aligarh, directed by Hansal Mehta.

Aligarh is a 2016 film and is a biographical account of the life of professor Ramchandra Siras, head of department of modern Indian languages at Aligarh Muslim University. Aligarh traced the story of the professor, his homosexuality and how he got panned for it. The film stars Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao. Siras died in 2010, and it was initially speculated that he ended his life.


A still from the 1993 film, Philadelphia.

One of the first mainstream films on homosexuality in Hollywood, Philadelphia, directed by Jonathan Demme, is the story of a lawyer who was fired from his firm when his bosses get to learn that he has AIDS and is gay. He takes the assistance of a lawyer to fight his case, and the films takes us through this journey. The film stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington.


A still from Moonlight, a film that won three Academy Awards in 2017. ( David Bornfriend/A24 via AP )

Winner of three Academy Awards, Moonlight is a coming-of-age story about a gay, black kid growing up in an impoverished, drug-addled neighborhood of Miami. It is based on playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s unpublished semi-autobiographical play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. The film, directed by Barry Jenkins, is the first film with an all-black cast in Hollywood.

My Brother...Nikhil

A still from My Brother Nikhil, starring Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri.

My Brother...Nikhil, directed by Onir, is based on the life of activist Dominic D’Souza, who was the index case (first patient) of HIV-AIDS in Goa in 1989. The protagonist, Nikhil Kapoor, played by Sanjay Suri, is a sportsman, but his life falls apart when he is diagnosed with AIDS. He is forcibly quarantined and kept in isolation. The film also stars Juhi Chawla and Purab Kohli.

Margarita With A Straw

A still from Margarita With A Straw in which stars Kalki Koechlin.

Margarita With A Straw follows the story of Laila, a teenager with cerebral palsy, who leaves India to study in New York. There, she falls in love with Khanum, a visually-challenged girl, and discovers that she is bisexual. This 2014 film was directed by Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar.

 I Am

The theatrical poster of the 2010 film, I Am.

I Am is a 2010 film that comprises four short films. The anthology is directed by Onir and stars actors Nandita Das, Juhi Chawla, Rahul Bose, Purab Kohli, Manish Koirala among others. One of the short stories, Omar, deals with homosexuality.

Brokeback Mountain

A still from Brokeback Mountain, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger.

Based on the novel of the same name by Annie Proulx, Brokeback Mountain explores the relationship between two men, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. Directed by Ang Lee, the movie spans two decades. The film won three Academy Awards in 2006.


Sean Penn and James Franco in a still from Milk.

Milk is a 2009 film directed by Gus Van Sant. It is based on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay person to be elected to a public office in California.

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First Published: May 17, 2017 17:36 IST