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Gay love in the movies

By SUKANYA VERMA
February 20, 2020 12:52 IST
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Bollywood's homophobia problem bares itself in its various caricatures of the LGBQT community.

Where a few film-makers are sensitive in their treatment as noted in the depiction of lesbian love in Hindi movies, a significant number is prone to poking fun for cheap laughs.

We still have not recovered from Akshay Kumar's cringeworthy 'Isne gender ka tender nahi bhara' humour in Housefull 4.

Things might change for the better when Bollywood's resident crusader Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar (of Gone Kesh, Kota Factory fame) take same sex romance to mainstream levels in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan.

What is refreshing is they are neither mistaken nor pretending to be men in love.

On that note, Sukanya Verma looks at gay portrayals in Bollywood.

 

Dostana

Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham pose as a gay couple to rent a pad in Miami, but complications arise when they fall for the same girl they are sharing the apartment with.

Throw in Boman Irani's catty gay boss and Kiron Kher's scandalised Punju mother to the mix and all hell breaks loose.

Even if Dostana does bring homosexuality to the fore, its caricature treatment plays purely for laughs.

 

Aligarh

In Hansal Mehta's Aligarh, which tells the true story of a professor and poet Dr Ramchandra Siras, Manoj Bajpayee heartbreakingly conveys the isolation and pathos of a man ostracised and penalised for his sexual identity.

Aligarh's dignified take on the subject makes it a rare Hindi film that views gay lives as human not a source of hilarity.

 

Kapoor & Sons

Kapoor & Sons looks into the highs and lows of a dysfunctional household and its pile of secrets as they gather together for a big birthday in the family.

Director Shakun Batra's mastery lies in both -- how he conveys Fawad Khan's insecurity and normalises his homosexuality as well as the discomfort of a mother conditioned to view it as unnatural.

Besides, Fawad Khan is an inspiring piece of casting.

 

Bombay Boys

Kaizad Gustad's wild indie chronicles three young NRI men visiting India in pursuit of different things.

One of them, played by Alexander Gifford, is coming to terms with his sexuality aided by intimate experiences around his aged landlord.

Bombay Boys refusal to be coy on matters of sex or violence made it quite a bold one for its times.

 

My Brother...Nikhil

Onir's directorial debut revolves around a state-level swimming champion's harassment owing to his HIV positive status.

Sanjay Suri's perceptive delivery as well as the restrained, gentle textures of his romantic relationship with boyfriend (Purab Kohli) steer clear of Bollywood's queer mockery.

 

Dear Dad

Coming out is always hard.

Even more so, if it's to announce the end of a marriage and the truth about your sexual orientation to your pubescent son.

Dear Dad never rises to its potential of tackling a complicated premise, but Arvind Swamy's normalised portrayal deserves props.

 

Honeymoon Travels PVT LTD

Reema Kagti's first film as director looks at various married couples honeymooning in Goa.

One of them is a gay NRI engaged in a marriage purely to fulfill social obligations and ward off snoopy relatives. During the said trip, he provides brief comfort to a newlywed suppressing his true sexual feelings at a honeymoon.

Though Kagti means to highlight homosexual plight forced to fit in heteronormative roles in this cluttered film, it barely stands out.

 

Bombay Talkies

A married man confronts his compromised domestic existence following an irresistible attraction to his wife's colleague facing disapproving daddy issues of his own.

Karan Johar's short segment in Bombay Talkies examines the shame and sexual heat around such a liaison, sans the trimmings and trappings of his big budget extravaganzas.

 

Dunno Y Na Jaane Kyon

Sanjay Sharma's film pitches itself as a gift to gay pride and India's answer to Brokeback Mountain, but defeats the purpose with its absurd, sleazy, laughable depiction of same sex romance.

You'll only hear this oddly worded title's mention in a listicle labelled so bad it's good.

 

I Am

In Onir's crowd-sourced 2010 social anthology, Rahul Bose's gay, gullible bloke becomes the target of a phony cop setup leading to much humiliation and heartache.

The degree of extortion and persecution meted out at LGBTQ community by society and its guardians forms the focus of this hard-hitting segment.

 

Student of the Year

One of Bollywood's long-lasting romantic heroes slips into the skin of a gay college principal, making eyes at the handsome sports coach with all his gusto and pink ties.

Rishi Kapoor has a ball playing over the top, but his farcical antics do little more than reinforce stereotypes.

 

Mast Kalander

Excessive hand gestures, freakish make-up, outlandish clothes, effeminate demeanour and a colourful mohawk sporting Anupam Kher as intensely masculine Amrish Puri's unusually quaint son in Mast Kalandar was hailed as a bold move by 1990s standards.

Except it is everything that's wrong with Bollywood's definition of gay identity.

 

Veeru Dada

Shakti Kapoor's hammy villain goes all out to reinforce Bollywood's freak show imagery for all things queer.

The actor wears chunky earrings, metallic eye shadow and gaudy coloured suits to assert his oddball nature.

Serious cringe.

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SUKANYA VERMA / Rediff.com
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