New Delhi: There was a time in Bollywood when gay characters were written in the scripts to only be treated as humour elements. But now the time has changed and so has the law! The recent years has witnessed path-breaking Bollywood LGBTQIA+ movies where artists portrayed LGBTQ+ roles with earnest interests.
Unfortunately, the subject is still taboo to our censor board. Well, that’s a damn shame because we’ve been gifted some really wonderful movies which tackle the topic in a unique manner.
Most of us love Bollywood and the dose of drama and excitement it brings with it. We’ve fallen in love every time Shah Rukh Khan has spread open his arms, we’ve danced to songs with cringe-worthy lyrics (guilty), sat at the edge of our seats when the hero gets beaten up in an overly dramatic action sequence. We’ve picked up dialogues, taken fashion inspiration and turned them into trends that live on for years. Bollywood always finds a way to entertain its audiences in one way or another with its mass appeal and its loud but interesting characters. But today, this isn’t about those films.
Every once in a while there comes a gem of a film, which makes us fall in love with its relatable storyline, its screenplay, its subtlety and its characters. A film that changes the way one sees and perceives ideas and challenges us to think beyond our social beliefs.
Here is a list of Bollywood LGTBQ movies and the actors who showed their craftsmanship by admirably playing LGBTQIA+ roles:
1. Margarita, with a Straw
In this revelation of a movie, Kalki Koechlin plays a teenager with cerebral palsy. She moves to New York City with her mother, a traditional woman, to study at New York University (NYU). She meets and falls for a blind Pakistani woman but is also attracted to another man, Jared. Through this movie, she discovers her bisexuality while balancing her relationship with her mother. It’s beautifully executed. Best part of the movie though is having no actors in the movie. All we could see in the movie were characters who were differently-abled living unapologetically in this beautifully constructed tale. The story is a well webbed narration with each character adding a different dimension to the story.
Based on a true story of Ramchandra Siras, gay professor at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), this film was shrouded in controversy and was banned in the city of Aligarh. Siras was suspended when he was caught with a man in his living quarters on campus. It caused a huge uproar with both sides, pro and anti-LGBT, fighting for or against him and his removal from his position as faculty head for being gay. Bajpayee’s performance is full of depth. Aligarh is an experience more than a film. I call it an experience because it makes one ponder over their blessed lives and how ignorant we are towards the plight of the LGBTQIA+ community.
3. Kapoor and Sons
The film is about a dysfunctional family where two estranged brothers return to their folks after their grandfather suffers a cardiac arrest and they come face to face to their parents’ collapsing marriage. Rahul Kapoor (played by Fawad Khan) is a homosexual but keeps the truth guarded until he comes out of the closet at the end of the story. Not once is Rahul Kapoor called ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’. And with zero labels, Kapoor and Sons showcases his character in the most human way. And yes, that is indeed a feat worth celebrating. Fawad’s performance was largely applauded by the audience.
4. Bombay Talkies
The duo that made news!
The film — an anthology of four stories by four popular filmmakers and one of them was “Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Yeh,” both actors play homosexual characters in the movie. Randeep Hooda’s character named Dev is a married man in a complex situation and hasn’t come out of the closet. Saqib’s character Avinash has left his parents’ house in distress because they are ashamed of his sexuality and confuse him for a eunuch. Both actors even have a kissing scene in the film which became quite the talking point for some time. Their earnest performances were hugely appreciated by everyone. Karan Johar’s Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh, probably the best of the bunch, sets the tone on what to expect with its bold and snappy banter as the mood turns from light to dark in no time. Karan spins a complex story of modern relationships that rips your heart out! In many ways, it’s a meta film about being who you really are. Like Karan wants to tell our cinema that it’s high time, we stopped lying to ourselves, time we consumed cinema not just as music or as a means to escape.
Powerhouse performers came together for this movie. Veteran actor Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das were one of the firsts to play LGBTQIA+ roles back in 1996. Five times National Award-winning actress Shabana Azmi portrayed the character of Radha and actor-director Nandita Das played the role of her sister-in-law Sita in Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy. Both the characters in the film are deserted by their husbands and they fall in love with each other. These were path-breaking roles in the history of Indian cinema as back then merely speaking about LGBTQIA+ community was considered a taboo. The brilliant performances of the actresses were internationally acclaimed.
Deepa Mehta's work is recognised for its global content and appeal. However, closer home, that translates to controversy. Among others, one such movie was 'Fire' which garnered a lot of critical acclaim worldwide but failed to impress many political groups in India due to its subject, which dealt with lesbian relationship between two sisters-in-laws in a Hindu family. The controversy ended with the leading actors, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das along with their director Deepa Mehta receiving death threats and Censor Board finally banning the movie in the country.
Do you know more Bollywood movies that got LGBTQIA+ representation right? Let's know in the comment section!