Shubh Mangal ; Are we Savdhan? Homophobia in Bollywood

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What is your initial thought when you first think of any gay character in Bollywood movies?
Is it the cliché character in bright colored clothes behaving obnoxiously effeminate?

The portrayal of any LGBTQ person in Bollywood has over the years been used for the evocation of humor backed by a burst of dumb-witted laughter. The first gay character in Bollywood was played by Anupam Kher as ‘Pinkoo’ in 1991 in the film Mast Kalandar starring Dharmender. Since then, homosexual characters have been used as elements of laughter rather than elements of love and acceptance.

From cross-dressers, transgenders to gays and lesbians, Bollywood has ruthlessly shown these characters to be devoid of feelings and full of lust. Taking Suresh Menon for instance, a talented actor whose acting has been limited to being an inveterate gay man costumed in flamboyant clothes. The obsession of Bollywood to paint a gay man as an agony aunt to the lead characters is baffling in many ways. A typical presentation of a gay character would be of a man who is either lascivious in nature or lusting after every straight man, stitched to a persona of ultimate fashion guide with a squeaky voice and a limped hand, nonetheless to evoke laughter with pathetic banana and butt jokes. Rishi Kapoor in the Student Of The Year, Akshay Kumar in Dishoom, and the wedding planner in Kal Ho Na Ho (if observed) are perfect examples. While Karan Johar tried to portray a progressive outlook in Dostaana, it still ends up stereotyping Abhishek Bacchan, John Abraham, and Boman Irani to a large extent.

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Lesbians, however, are seldom a feature of the film industry. They are not considered and even if they are, it’s a consideration with semi-pornographic imagery with fishy giggles and an obligatory tomboy appearance of one of the partners.

Moving onto cross-dressers, by default, they become associated with putting fake breasts and a wig accompanied by a high pitched voice. Transgenders, on the other hand, are either shown as sexual predators to the hero or found roaming on streets asking for money. Most popular among them being Ali Asgar and Gaurav Grover from the Kapil Sharma Show and Saif Ali Khan in Humshakals. Here, the question of why does Bollywood not hire actual transgenders, crossdressers in their films comes to the fore.

Addressing the elephant in the room that has always existed: homophobia. Homophobia has always silently tipped toed in and around our Indian film industry, influencing each action. ‘Kanta Ben’ portrayed by Acharya Sulha in Kal Ho Na Ho and ‘Mrs. Rina Kapoor’ by Kirron Kher in Dostaana are examples of the same. Spreading vast in the industry, homophobia has prevented many artists from coming out as well as critics from acknowledging LGBTQ films.

Focusing on the silver lining, Bollywood is seen making gradual progress with movies such as Kapoor and Sons, Margarita with a Straw, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhaan, Ek Ladki ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and Aligarh. Although the inclusiveness and expressiveness still reside amongst the independent filmmakers, the crème or the higher strata still has a lot to make up for. Till then, we can only hope for the people of the community to fight harder and emerge even stronger.

Image Source – Reddit

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Mallika Barsaley
A 2nd-year student pursuing B.A.Programme with a knack of writing. A budding journalist and an all-time explorer. General Secretary of B.A.Programme Association of Kamala Nehru College.

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