Going gay, the Bollywood way

15 January 2008
The Times of India

Going gay, the Bollywood way

HARSHA BHATNAGAR

The character of a homosexual was often used in films either to provide the fun quotient or as an effort to deal with a sensitive subject.

This was because homosexuals were treated as queers. Now the scene is all set to change. Increasingly, the society has begun accepting them. With actors like Samir Soni, Harsh Chhaya and Irrfan happily playing the gay character, it is being felt that Bollywood is willing to change its stance.

Beginning of acceptability Madhur Bhandarkar, who first showed gays as normal people in his film Page 3, strongly feels that people are now more receptive to such subjects.

Even for his latest film Fashion, he waited for months before zeroing in on Samir and Harsh to play gay fashion designers.

He says, “Views are changing. Today there is a willingness to accept gays as a part of the society. Earlier, films would portray gays as mere caricatures. Just as we weave a character of a businessman or doctor in films, today a gay too is shown normally.”

Fear of being rebuked Sanjay Suri, the first mainstream hero to go gay in My Brother Nikhil a few years ago, says that he was dissuaded by his friends in the industry, when he announced that he would be doing the role, for fear of being rebuked. But he went ahead with his decision. “Instead of being ridiculed,” he says, “my work was appreciated.”

Irrfan too in Mira Nair’s forthcoming film, The Migration, portrays the role of an unhappy married bisexual man. Ask Irrfan did the thought of being ridiculed not cross his mind and he says, “As an actor one shouldn’t think of such things. Over the years, the audience has opened up. They are more aware about such people existing in the same world.”

Stepping out When Harsh learnt that Madhur was looking out for someone to play a gay character, he immediately got interested and approached Madhur.

Is this an indication that it is time for the Indian homosexuals to step out of the closet? To this Harsh replies, “Off late, with gay activists voicing their rights, people are now more understanding. Being a gay is just about having different sexual preferences, which is perfectly fine.”

Samir Soni who is also going to play a gay says, “Gays are usually shown to be effeminate (also known as drag queens) and that may not be necessarily true always. Often they are not even obviously identifiable. With my portrayal of this role, I’ll try and break the stereotype.”

A matter of time

Though things are looking up for gays in the society, more needs to be done for their acceptance in the mainstream. While Bollywood has taken the lead, Satish Kumar, spokesperson of Men Community Development Society, says, “Total acceptability in the society will take a little time. People are now talking openly about their sexual preferences. With Bollywood showing gays as an integral part of our society, it will definitely inspire people to accord respectability to them.”

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