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In the closet no more: Fair, square and queer

With films like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and web shows like Four More Shots Please, love stories are changing on screen, and homosexual characters are getting fair representation.

bollywood Updated: Mar 19, 2019 11:06 IST
Etti Bali
Etti Bali
Hindustan Times
Sonam Kapoor,Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga,Four More Shots Please
Sonam K Ahuja and Regina Cassandra in a still from Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.

With films like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, reality TV shows like Elovator Pitch, radio shows like Gaydio and web series like Made In Heaven, Four More Shots Please, Romil and Jugal, The Story Tales, 377 Ab Normal (soon to be broadcast), and Evening Shadows the theme of homosexuality is being explored like never before. And even though we had films like Aligarh (2016), Kapoor & Sons (2016) and Margarita With a Straw (2015) in the past, this is the time when their stories are taking the centre stage.

Talking about playing a gay character on screen in filmmaker Onir’s I Am (2010) opposite actor Rahul Bose and now in his recent web series, Made In Heaven, actor Arjun Mathur says, “The first scene of the series starts [with me] making out with a guy. When I was shooting for this, I was very nervous but when I saw myself on the big screens, I can’t tell you how beautifully it is done. After watching that, all my nervousness just disappeared. For me, if a scene like this is needed and if I’m trusting my director completely, I’ve no problem in doing it. Definitely, before you do it, each time you will be nervous.”

A still from Evening Shadhows.

In an earlier interview to IANS, actor Lisa Ray, who plays a lesbian in Four More Shots Please, says, “I honestly don’t think in terms of labels and I don’t have boundaries in my head, particularly when it comes to choosing partners. Love is love. I’ve lived all over the world and I have friends of so many backgrounds, I refuse to define them. I don’t like being defined either. But with Section 377 finally repealed, I am optimistic for a new era in India in opening individuals’ minds to accepting personal choices.”

Filmmaker Shelly Chopra Dhar, director of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, says that the intention was to make a difference in how homosexuality is perceived. “We were all committed to making a difference in the overall perspective of how homosexuality is viewed in India. Of course we were concerned about the reactions of the audience that’s why it is such a family film. This subject required very delicate handling and I tried very hard not to preach but allow people to feel instead,” she says.

Actor Anil Kapoor, who starred in Ek Ladki... feels that films always mirror society. “ Nowadays there is a lot of acceptance about same-sex relationships. As actors, we get appreciated for playing a part in the films on such sensitive subjects. More and more audience are willing to consume such content. Even writers and directors get the instinct to tell such innovative stories and keep pushing the envelope forward,” he says.

A still from Romil and Jugal.

Clear-cut roles and to-the-point storylines are also helping people from the community to engage their family and friends in a dialogue about homosexuality. “People came up to me crying and thanking me for allowing them to have a tool to share with their parents so they can explain to them who they are. So many families freed themselves from the boxes that they created around themselves and stepped out accepting their children for who they were. At the end of the day remember that no one human being has the right to tell another that their existence is wrong,” shares Dhar.

With such strong representations and mainstream portrayals, is the industry ready to embrace change?

LGBTQI+ rights activist and radio host Harish Iyer, says, “Cinema has always been a reflection of society, and society has been a reflection of cinema. I think that it’s positive. I think in an era where homophobia rules the roost in cinema, a film like Ek Ladki...brings to the fore the idea that all love is equal.”

He further adds that it is time to normalise homosexuality. “I would love to have a film where a boy-and-boy or a girl-and-girl are in love with each other but that is not the issue. The issue is something else—one is rich the other is poor, or one is Muslim and the other is Hindu. It is time to normalise homosexuality to an extent that it is a non-issue,” he says.

For people from the community, it is a welcome change. Arnab Biswas, a 33-year old finance manager who identifies as a gay man, says, “I strongly believe showcasing such characters is one important step to including and mainstreaming the queer community, one important point is to showcase them the way they are naturally and not making a caricature or an element of laugher even if their behaviour is not regular.”

“I am definitely hoping that this opens many more doors and other writers and directors take a cue from this. It is important that society re-evaluates its perspective and realises that love is love and doesn’t need any qualification,” says Dhar.

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First Published: Mar 19, 2019 11:05 IST