Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?

We talk to public figures belonging to the LGBTQI+ community and those who have worked on projects portraying them, on whether things have changed for them in real life.
Writer Apurva Asrani, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Sushant Divgikr
Writer Apurva Asrani, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Sushant Divgikr
Published on Jun 22, 2021 12:17 PM IST
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By Rishabh Suri

Ajeeb Dastaans, Aligarh, Made in Heaven, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan — There’s been a rise in the representation of the LGBTQI+ community on celluloid, and especially the online space, in the recent years. All this, of course, is a step in the right direction, coming from times when such topics were considered taboo even for a normal conversation.

But has this reel change translated into real life change as well? How is the situation today for the LGTBQI+ community? Has the conversation spilled off screen too from the small or big screen? We explore:

Apurv Asrani, Writer of Aligarh and is openly gay

Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?
Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?

We’re no longer criminals so what’s there to fear. Look at social media, so many are proudly talking about their lives, their relationships. Politicians who never uttered the word ‘gay’ now address the community openly. I also think that traditional families are able to discuss homosexuality at the dinner table. There are so many well respected people in society who are LGBTQ and people can see that being gay it’s not just some buffoonery like older films used to show them.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, transgender rights activist

Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?
Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?

The change is happening and it is inevitable, but the dialogue within the mainstream society is still very questionable. Let people live their lives the way they want, why does one have to poke their noses? This habit has not yet stopped, people are bothered by what’s in the other’s plate, not their own. This situation requires a lot of understanding, and their portrayals on-screen also has to be more sensitive rather than stereotype. Even name calling hasn’t completely wiped out. It still happens depending on the community and where you stay.

Nandita Das, actor-filmmaker who starred in Fire (1996)

Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?
Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?

How things have changed in real life is a question the LGBTQI+ community should answer but I feel the real impacts the reel more than the other way round. We’re more comfortable with double standards and hypocrisies than we’re with honesty and acceptance. I wish in the last 25 years there were many more films and series that brought out the stories of the community. But we’ve largely remained hetro-normative in our media. Glad the freedom that OTT platforms enjoy has pushed some to tell these stories. But the reel too has a role to play as it goes into our subconscious and informs are responses and challenges our prejudices.

Sushant Divgikr, actor-singer, Mr Gay India 2014

Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?
Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?

The mindset of people is changing. It all starts in school, education, when children are taught to respect people, regardless of gender and orientation. What happens more often than not is due to the many years of conditioning, people are made to believe that queer people are only for comic relief. This is what happens on screen, and also with people who’re dusky, overweight, or too tall. The whole idea of absurd standards of beauty and representation become very toxic. To break this mould will take time.

Gauri Sawant, Transgender activist

Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?
Reel to real: After celluloid, have things improved for the LGBTQI+ community in real life?

There’s a lot that still needs to be worked upon when it comes to the transgender community. Even in the LGBTQ categories, Transgender comes towards the end. I belong to the hijra gharana, issues of gays and lesbians are different. Transgender logon ki haalat bauahut kharab hai. How many big corporate companies employ transgenders? They say they have made unisex toilets, but are we talking about those people? Gay and lesbians are behaviour, transgender is an identity. I don’t know while celebrating Pride Month, we should be happy or sad.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2021