“Memories are the architecture of our identi[ties]”. We all depend upon a feeling of familiarity with the evolving world that is within and outside us. The essence of this sense of familiarity accompanied with the world, is the way we think we are. Memories, not always immediately personal yet significant to our identity remind us how we believe that these distant archaic memories somehow define our intrinsic individuality. Through the understanding of diversity, India and its Bollywood has been struggling with its sense of stable and secure recognition. Popular culture and Bollywood have always been centric to the idea of diversity in India. Cinema (‘Bollywood’) has been used as a powerful communication tool to catalyse and process a social change. Popular culture acts as an active agent are assessing social relationships within the private and public spheres demarcated. Bollywood are integral to the social positioning of gender sex caste and other distinguishable expressions of identities.
Indian Cinema and Homosexuality
Like any other form of art, cinema and Bollywood has played a part in social relating and portrayed the social change through them. Subtle change is brought into the society, by means of this art form (for instance, films). Cinema has definitely contributed towards the Indian queer movement. However, the question that is posited here, is this contribution actually contributed towards the betterment of queers or is just a means of spreading hatred against the community? Time and again, Hindi films have shown complete apathy and have been tone deaf towards the LGBTQ community which will be highlighted. Mostly popular culture has some way or the other promoted transphobia, homophobia and rejected the LGBTQ community in part or in whole. In the present post we aim towards the period of 2010-2020 and thus, our primary research is based on the last decade. However, to deal with the current times, it is imperative that we look a little into our past.
The Golden Era (Mid 50’s- 60’s)
The LGBTQ community members in the Hindi cinema continues to proceed with the burden of being a joke and being shown just as an object to laugh at and ridicule. Hindi cinema during that time deliberately cross dressed actors to invoke laughter among the audience. For instance, the film of “Lawaris” (1981) [Mere Angane Mein song], cross dressed Amitabh Bachchan to be understood mistakenly as eunuch; “Rafoo Chakkar” (1975), cross dressed Rishi Kapoor. With that, for the very first time, comedian Mehmood, personified eunuchs as a respectable and amicable manner in the film “Kunwara Baap”. Queer pictures and representation was rarely depicted in the commercial spaces, and whatever used to happen was for comic relief (and this was found in huge amounts of films). In spite of these anxieties, sexuality and sex representation continued to have a space in media forms (being against the conventionally defined heteronormativity).
The After Era (Current Times)
Often recognised as been preying on the protagonist (hero) sexually (without the consent of the hero), the trans characters are horrifically treated in the Indian cinemas. Alternatively, the trans/LGBTQ members are often shown as being exaggeratedly ‘effeminate’ caricatures, just for the audience’s laugh. 2016 did bring some positive representation to the members of the community, for instance, the films like ‘Aligarh’ and ‘Kapoor and Sons’, did depict the LGBTQ members positively. However, positive representation is minimal and mostly depict them in a negative way. Following are the example of some negative representation
The 2008 movie ‘Dostana’, was one of the large scale Indian movie that depicts homosexuality as its theme. As pointed out by The Guardian, “[n]ow India’s convoluted attitude to gayness finally has its cinematic manifestation in Dostana (Friendship), one of the gayest films ever made in any our country but in which almost no one is actually gay. It’s also a terrific movie – the best and funniest Bollywood film I’ve seen in a very long time”. Such a carcaturish depiction of men (heterosexual) representing to be gay, in an attempt to get a girl, questions the real representation and marketing.
I Am (2011)
The film was made during the time when Indian Penal Code’s Section 377 – same sex was an offence. In the film, I am Omar (the character who was gay) having intercourse with the same sex person in a public place and was caught by the police. They bribed the policeman and later on it was found the partner of Omar had knowingly set up a scene for extorting money from the gay man. While is film is realistic in depicting the structural and emotional struggles that the homosexuals really encounter, and the real failure to provide needed amnesty to members.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019)
The present film is attempting towards ‘normalising’ ones who are not considered to be ‘normal’. “The lihaafs that are persecuted and the Goblin Markets that men don’t want”. The fill definitely attempts in fitting the unconventional love story to a drama. However, the movie at some point or the other uses them as a caricature to gain audience’s interest. Saibal Chatterjee, precisely noted that the film, “does not seek to derive mirth and frivolity from the theme, offering instead an earnest, unapologetic depiction of the act of coming out in a conservative society”.
Suresh Menon in the film ‘Partner’ plays a role of gay friend of Ms. Priya Jaising (Katrina Kaif). Menon plays the role of Kiran and acts as a fashion designer. Further, in an attempt to bring laugh tot the audience, he is made to tell his favorite song, which was named, ‘Aadmi hu Aadmi Se Pyar Krta Hun’. Now, the question herein appears, is this something to make fun of? And the answer to the same remains a prodigious ‘no’.
Bol Bachhan (2012)
A film wherein, Mr. Abhishek Bachchan flaps his hands (in order to depict that he is gay). The film rides on stereotypes set up in understanding gay people, and further depicted them with printed outfits, kohled eyes, shy walk and effeminate behaviour. The question appears herein is that, whether these stereotypes define a gay man? And the answer to the same remains a prodigious ‘no’. Bollywood and the popular culture should be ashamed of itself for depicting LGBTQ community members in such a manner. Thus the question appears is the Indian cinema giving correct representation and positive representation to the members of LGBTQ community.
It is imperative to understand that Cinema has acted as a tool to reach millions of people and represents the challenges in the society, However, if the LGBTQ members are depicted as negative, manipulative, fearful and funny characters, it directly reinforces the hatred (that is already existing) in the world within and around us. The members of the LGBTQ community do not need sympathy, instead, needs understanding, dignity, and acceptance. Thus, condemning of an individual in popular culture is not justified and the society’s power of non-essentially controlling the individual’s sexuality and gender is also not justified.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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