Cinema is a huge part of all of our lives, without us even knowing that, no matter if you watch movies or not, you love cinema or not, it impacts our lives and thus it has some responsibility over its shoulders. While it can provide you solace by taking you to a different universe altogether with larger than life heroes on the screen, it can also act as a mirror of the society we live in and reflect the ills that pertain around us, giving us something to think about.
Since cinema is universal, it transcends the boundaries of language, cultures, ethnicities, religions and politics. It is for everyone and thus, proper representation in cinema means reaching people all over the world and telling the stories in the way they need to be told. The Indian cinema tarried in representing the LGBTQIA+ community appropriately for quite some time, and to top that, it actually misrepresented them to an extent that it became hard for the people of LGBTQIA+ community to pave their way in this society.
Being a zoomer, the first movie I can remember that introduced me to who gays are is Dostana and it was very cool for me to see those incredibly good looking people on screen, however, there was not much of a takeaway from this mainstream film that dealt with such a sensitive issue. Movies like Kal Ho Na Ho, Bol Bachhan, Partner which were good entertainers and reached a lot of people and formed a big part of our childhood, portrayed homosexual couples and trans people in nothing more than a comedic light, a cheap way of churning out some laughter without any acknowledgement of how brutal life actually is for such people in real world.
This lack of concern for the community in the mainstream Indian cinema lead to the lack of concern and sympathy for them in the real world and this is where the question for the need of correct representation induces. Appropriate representation of LGBTQIA+ community in the mainstream media can actually help in making the society more accepting and inclusive of them.
A designer, a hairdresser, anyone close to fashion has to be a gay and every gay has to be feminine in most Bollywood movies. In retrospect, the movies in the decade of the 00's always found it funny that two guys are together. Also, what is up with all gay characters being extremely over the top, remember Suresh Menon and Bobby Darling?
This might have been funny for us then, however, I can’t fathom the demons it injected in the brain of a child or a teenager who was trying to come to terms with his/her sexuality and identity. We never really created a safe space for them even while taking pride in the fact that we have the largest film industry in the whole world.
It is good to see that in recent years, some Indian filmmakers have done projects that shed light on the life of queer people and showed us what it is like for them. Movies like Aligarh, Margarita with a Straw, Fire, Kapoor and Sons, Geeli Puchhi and so on gave us all a fresh perspective of the people who we thought didn’t belong with us. We got to know that they are just as normal as us.
However, we still have a long way to go to repair the damages done by misrepresenting an entire community for our mere entertainment. The cinema holds the power to mould beliefs, shift perspectives and normalise. There is a need for the people of LGBTQIA+ community to come and tell their stories through their lens and we are all here for it.