On the fifth day of the 13th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), an open forum discussion on the ‘Queering India: Gay & Lesbian Portrayals In New India Cinema’
was held at Cinemax Versova. The panel comprised eminent people from the film
industry including filmmakers Tarun Mansukhani, Onir and Sridhar Rangayan, actor Rajit Kapoor, film reviewer and journalist Rajeev Masand and columnist Aseem Chhabra.
The discussion opened with Mansukhani speaking about a certain amount of homophobia that is an integral part of not just the film industry but of the country in
The Dostana filmmaker remarked, “If someone asks me why the heroes weren’t
shown kissing in my film, I simply reply that we are yet to show a man and a woman
kissing in our films without someone objecting to it. So showing two men kiss on
screen is still a far- fetched dream.”
Filmmaker Onir intervened, pointing out, “I don’t think the industry is homophobic
to homosexuals but they are homophobic to seeing them on screen.” He cited an
example, saying that whenever he has approached a filmmaker
with a concept on homosexuality, from actors to producers and distributors
to exhibitors, everyone had refused to touch these subjects with a barge pole.
“Sadly, it’s mainly the newcomers who are ready to accept such roles. If we are
lucky, we may get an actor on board who is ready to experiment with roles that push
the envelope. So the options for us filmmakers are very limited,” he said.
Actor Rajit Kapoor, who is playing a gay lyricist in Deepti Naval’s Do Paise Ki Dhoop
Charane Ki Baarish, shared some of his experiences while working on the film.
“Deepti and I were planning the script but she wasn’t getting any lead actors for the
role. So she turned to me for help. I simply asked her not to portray my character in
the way it is shown in Hindi films and she agreed,” said Kapoor.
Aseem Chhabra added, “In cities like New York, there are about 2,000 people
that attend the Gay Pride walks but a similar initiative held in New Delhi only
attracted a few hundred people. It is not about the quantity of people but I know
that Indian filmmakers are taking baby steps towards making films on homosexuality
and soon the number of films of this genre will multiply.”
Onir spoke about the problems these films have with regard to distribution. The
trouble with subjects on homosexuality is that people in the industry are close-minded.
“The problem lies in the exhibition business. None of the exhibitors will showcase
these films as they do commercial Hindi films. Even if a filmmaker manages
to get a theatrical release for a ‘queer’ film, the film is never assigned a decent number
of shows. It will be a long time before this changes.”