LGBTQ representation in Indian cinema

Indian film industry making space for all kind of love stories

Cinema

March 12, 2020

/ By / Kolkata



(picture credit: CheapOAir)

From decriminalising homosexuality in 2018 to portray the love stories of the LGBTQ+ community as ‘normal couples’ in its cinema, India and Indian films have come a long way.

Indian cinema and the discussion on queer love stories has been a long one with twists and turns, ups and downs. India has seen cinematic brilliance with films like Fire (1996) to Margarita with a Straw (2014), and it has also seen shameless generalisation and biases when depicting a queer character. The cinema lovers have come a long way when one talks about accepting queers. Earlier, the films showed homosexual characters as effeminate characters that added no meaning to the story and were kept there to add insensitive humour to the plot. However,  now, the audience has changed and we see homosexual characters that are important to the plot of the movie or series. The most recent example can be seen on the amazon prime exclusive web series, Made in Heaven that shows a homosexual character and his struggle in daily life. The queer projection of characters in Indian films has seen a drastic shift from Fire in 1996 to Subh Mangal Zyada Savdhan in 2020, where the characters back then had to stay in the closet and would hardly show their true self to now where men and women can come out of the closet and reveal their true self. Earlier, even the release of such movies had dangerous consequences. For example, when Fire was released there was a lot of political violence that had followed, but today soon after its release Subh Mangal Zyada Savdhan is making millions at the box office, only to show how today’s generation is more accepting in nature. Here is a list of six such movies that left a mark on Indian cinema by their depiction of the queer.

Fire (1996)

(picture credit: Filmnod.com)

The movie that started it all, a classic Deepa Mehta film, Fire was way ahead of its time as it depicts a lesbian relationship tangled between two unhappy arranged marriages. Even when homosexuality was a hush-hush topic in India, and wasn’t widely accepted in Indian culture, this film featured an honest and significant representation of the LGBTQ characters.

My brother… Nikhil (2005)

(picture credit: Netflix)

At a time when homosexuality and AIDS were considered taboos, this film handled these two delicate topics with care and created sheer poetry on the silver screen. The film tells the tale of a swimming champion who was diagnosed positive for HIV and was forced to come out. Despite not doing well at the box office, the film gained huge support from the queer community.

Memories in March (2010)

(picture credit: FreeMoviesToWatchOnline)

Rituparno Ghosh creates magic on screen with this movie as he carefully tells the story of a mother who comes to collect his son’s body and finds out that he was gay. The director Sanjay Nag carefully handles melancholy and the ultimate acceptance that shows the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not only about accepting the queer but also about tormented souls and the closure that comes after acceptance.

Margarita with a Straw (2014)

(picture credit: High on Films)

This movie talks about two topics that are not popular in Bollywood, disability and bisexuality. This raw and brilliantly executed movie shows the realisation of the main character that she is bisexual and eventually finding love. It is about not only accepting one’s sexuality but also normalising people with disability. Margarita with a Straw is liberating in the protagonist’s portrayal of a person with cerebral palsy. It speaks of challenges with optimism rather than despair. This movie also is crucial as it talks freely about a woman voicing her sexual desires and needs in a society where they are expected to only be the object of desire and not have a voice.

 Aligarh (2016)

(picture credit: Times of India)

Aligarh explores many dimensions and asks questions like what it is to be a homosexual in India and the ill-treatment meted out to the LGBTQ community in the name of morality and sanctity of the society. This movie talks about the mysterious death of an Aligarh university professor whose privacy is invaded and was thrown out of his job until a journalist takes up his story and ends up fighting for justice. Aligarh heralded a new era for Indian cinema when dealing with LGBTQ themes.

Subh Mangal Zyada Savdhan (2020)

(picture credit: Jitendra Motiyani)

Subh Mangal Zyada Savdhan is India’s first rom-com that presents a homosexual love story. While all the other movies made sure they spoke about the violence and the injustice faced by the community, this movie deals with the same issues but on a lighter note. It is the first time when a queer movie in India will be more than documentaries or dark movies and a movie goes on towards normalising homosexual love stories.

 

 

 

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