Ignorance is Not Bliss

How many of us here are guilty of assuming people`s gender based on their appearances, dressing styles, hair, makeup, speech, etc.? Why is he walking like this, he definitely would be into boys. He`s wearing such girly colors and has such weird hair. Why does she dress like a boy; is she into girls; no boy would marry her. Such thinking comes to us so naturally, homophobia runs in our veins and we are so wired to think in the gender binary construct even when there is knowledge of other genders being around.

The main reason for deliberate ignorance is the negative sentiment that is associated with other identities; this is ingrained within us due to the societal view of LGBT+ communities and their inaccurate portrayal in the entertainment industry. The Indian society looks down and considers homosexuality as something that the foreign brought upon us; however, a deep dive into our ancient history proves that this isn`t true. Gender fluid individuals and transsexuals were quite common in the royal palaces and held a respectable position in the council. There are folklores in plenty that talk about such individuals who transformed into the opposite sex/animals. Temples in South India have sculptures depicting same-sex relationships which are not so subtle in their portrayal. Various queer themes run across the Mahabharata which has also been narrated by Devdutta Pattanaik, the famous mythological scholar.

When the British took over India in the 17th Century, they brought with them the Buggery Act of 1533 which criminalized homosexual relationships and hence enforced Article 377 into our law framework. Hence, homophobia is a concept that we adopted from the West, not homosexuality. Even though we have gained Independence, some such British thoughts still perpetuate, and therefore, the LGBT community has had to suffer from injustices and exploratory behaviors.     

Movies are a good way to influence and mold the views of the citizens, but this platform is used to communicate fallacious details and fetishize the community. We all remember Sam and Kunal from Dostana (2008) pretending to be gay partners; and well what do you need to pass the gay test according to Bollywood mainstream cinema? You need to wear pink, walk and talk in an effeminate way, and oggle at all the men around you. Just take any Bollywood movie that ‘apparently’ portray characters from the LGBT+ community – Partner (2007) has Suresh Menon, who is Katrina Kaif`s best friend; he can`t stop drooling over Govinda and continues to speak in that artificial female voice which makes us all cringe. Suresh Menon has played multiple such ‘gay’ roles in adult Bollywood comedies. Student of the Year (2012) has the legendary Rishi Kapoor portray the role of a single gay man in his late 50s and what a disgrace he was to the community. One would expect something better from a director like Karan Johar, who himself identifies as gay. But who are we kidding? Lesbian relationships haven`t gotten that much attention yet and only a handful like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Esa Laga (2019) and a few shows on Netflix have shown such relations. They haven`t been received very well but at least an attempt was made.

Another issue that I have with movies is that the role of transgenders is given to cisgender actors by most film industries. Cis genders are then again asked to walk/talk/behave in a certain way in an amplified manner which is often disrespectful to the members of the community. Crossdressing is again horribly done in many David Dhawan movies further degrading their position. Is it so hard to get proper representation? That is all that the LGBTQIA+ is asking for from the industry. There have been some fantastic attempts made – Made in Heaven (Zoya Akhtar – 2019), Kapoor and Sons (Shakun Batra – 2016), Dear Zindagi (Gauri Shinde – 2016), where the gay characters have range; they are portrayed as their typical cis counterparts and have not bowed down to the stereotypes. The Last Color (Vikas Khanna – 2019) has a transwoman playing the role of a transgender in the movie (Finally some proper representation!).

It is possible, but we cannot deny that this transition will take continued time and effort. In our society where even pre-marital heterosexual relationships are majorly frowned upon, acceptance of homosexual relationships seems like a far-fetched idea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s