September 16, 2020
After the decriminalisation of the IPC Section 377, filmmakers, magazine, newspapers and the internet have taken it upon themselves to further represent the LGBTQ+ community.
We are, however, still unaware of any projects that may have LGBTQ+ representation. It’s still exciting enough to know that such talks are in existence.
Made In Heaven.
The series is an avid creation by Zoya Akhtar, that took to Amazon Prime. The series instantly gaining a fan following. It portrays co-lead Karan, a gay wedding planner in Delhi. His professional and personal life makes for a very interesting subplot. With every episode, we delve further into his life and struggles. The series expresses way too realistically the trueness of being gay in an India community.
But, what makes this show so pin-in accurate is the portrayal of Karan. He is like just about any character. His homosexuality is not in portrayal such that it consumes him but rather, a part of who he is. He loves his career, parties with his friends, enjoys his time alone, wears jeans and makes love – just like every one of us.
Such a character should ideally just be normal. However, because the LGBTQ+ representation has been so bad, this seems to be a milestone achievement. The representation all these years have been for humorous purposes, often stereotyping them. Moreso, they very rarely get spaces as actors or models in the industry.
“Being gay is normal,” says Alankrita Srivastava, filmmaker of ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha, to ET. “The series has been created, written and directed by people whose point of view on homosexuality is very clear. We believe human beings are free to love whoever they like. That is how we see the world, and that is how we try to portray Karan: as a normal guy, with a regular life,” she says.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga:
Films took a lot of time to show any acceptance in the LGBTQ+ community. The first known one was Fire in 1996 which immediately had the country in a state of backfire. Almost a decade after came the next representation with My Brother… Nikhil in 2005 which tackled AIDS and same-sex love. Finally, there came a boom in 2014 with films like Margarita with a Straw (2014), Aligarh (2015), Loev, Dear Dad and Kapoor & Sons (all 2016) which garnered exceptionally positive reviews.
The first mainstream Bollywood film to represent homosexuality after the decriminalization of 377 was Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Translating to How I Felt When I Saw That Girl. It had big stars like Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor and Rajkumar Rao. Furthermore, and perhaps the best part, the story was co-written by transwoman and activist Gazal Dhaliwal. The ostracisation, the alienation, the loneliness of the queer is brought forward very sensibly and sensitively.
The Internet, Magazines and Radio:
There wasn’t much representation, in newspapers nor TV, until the onset of the ’90s. Khush- list became the first mailing list for LGBTQ+ South Asians in 1993. Their focus was predominantly toward the Indians in metropolitan cities and those living abroad than the more local individuals.
LGBT-India came to existence in 1999, establishing itself on e-groups. These e-groups soon became yahoo groups. It was these groups that we now see as main discussion spaces for the majority of people of India. Gay Bombay (Mumbai), Good As You (Bangalore), Pratibimb (Hyderabad), Orinam (Chennai) are a few of these.
Soon, GayBombay.org became a leading queer organization in 1998, closely followed by Orinam.net in 2006. They took to online platforms becoming the oldest online resources to people in those respective areas.
Dating websites were next in line. They began providing an alternative way of meeting people; online communities also offer a safe and convenient environment for meeting others just like you.
On September 11th, 2013, India gave witness to our first Queer Radio Channel. Qradio – Out and Proud, is a radio station in complete dedication to the LGBTQ+ audience. They have a variety of talk shows, music, debates and discussions. The channel runs 24 hours a day.
In February 2014, Wonderful Things Happen was founded with the objective to serve the Indian lesbian/bi women community.
What about the Trans?
“The LGBTQ community has not been shown in the correct light on screen, and it has suffered because of the misrepresentation. Especially transpeople who are only shown as prostitutes or beggars” says Keshav Suri. He is the Executive Director of The LaLit Hospitality Group and one of India’s pioneers in terms of affirmative action for LGBTQ+ people.
Keshav is well-known for his contributions to the LGBTQ+ community. He is one of the few to file a writ petition in the Supreme Court in April regarding Section 377. Furthermore, he encourages his business to create job and training opportunities for the community. He even has Drag Shows regularly at some of the biggest clubs: Kitty Su in Delhi and Mumbai and Kitty Ko in Bangalore. Also, his nonprofit initiative Keshav Suri Foundation has a section dedicated to the Trans community known as TRANSaction. They conduct workshops in Delhi and Mumbai for trans persons.
“It is important to create the right opportunities rather than have mere token representation in films. The industry should harness the talent available in the community, at least for trans roles” says Suri to ET.
Last year’s Netflix drama – Sacred Games – gave a stage to a transwoman, Kukoo, in a pivotal, powerful role. But the fact that the role went to a cisgender actor Kubbra Sait didn’t go down well with some.
“All Anurag Kashyap [the series director] had to do was put up a 30-second Instagram video calling for transpersons to audition for the role. It was an opportunity lost,” rues Faraz Arif Ansari, director of Sisak. He partnered to conduct acting workshops for TRANSaction after a year-long unsuccessful bid to find a trans actor to play the lead role in his ongoing film project, a family drama called Sabr.