Tales of Homosexuality: Bollywood is learning to come out of the closet

Manik Sharma

Mar 29, 2019 14:05:24 IST

In the first episode of the Amazon Prime series Made In Heaven, Arjun Mathur as Karan brings home a date for a sleepover. The next morning he pretends to have work — on a Sunday — to get rid of the date.

Karan would seem like a wanton playboy, a rarity on desi screen big or small, which by and large still struggles to honestly portray promiscuity without moralising the eventualities. It is after all a way of life that goes against the biggest cultural monolith our popular cinema has dedicated years to erecting — marriage.

In Made In Heaven, the cliché is tipped not once, but twice. Not only is Karan promiscuous, he is also gay.

Tales of Homosexuality: Bollywood is learning to come out of the closet

Still from Made In Heaven


Created by the Gully Boy team of Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, Made In Heaven marks a pathbreaking depiction of same-sex love in popular Hindi entertainment. The fact that the show comes in the aftermath of IPC Section 377 being quashed should not undermine the effort.

Over the years, themes of homosexuality or LGBTQ subjects have mostly been the domain of offbeat or arthouse filmmakers in Hindi cinema. Many of these films faced widespread protests. Deepa Mehta’s 1998 release Fire, starring Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi, met with right-wing violence. Onir’s films like My Brother Nikhil (2005), I AM (2010) and Shab (2017), Hansal Mehta’s brilliant Aligarh (2015), Shonali Bose’s Margarita With A Straw (2014), and Sudhanshu Saria’s Love (2015) have been among other prominent offbeat efforts that narrated gay themes without resorting to stereotypes.

No one in Bollywood mainstream, however, was keen to tackle alternate sexuality. The odd Dostana (2008) or Kapoor & Sons (2016) did make an effort, but these were either caricatures or half-baked.

Which where the Supreme Court judgment of September 2018 has come as a boon. Earlier this year, Shelly Chopra Dhar’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga became commercial Bollywood’s first-ever honest effort to understand a sexual relationship between two women. Importantly, the film was toplined by Sonam Kapoor, a mainstream star.

Made In Heaven, similarly, presents the act of intercourse between two men with sensitivity and without prejudice. It is incredible to watch how the most erotic moments in the series involve two men, resolutely shedding it of all taboo. Never has an Indian film camera handled the vulnerable subject with such compassion.

Of course, there is a long way to go. Ek Ladki Ko…, despite its mainstream trappings, managed to appeal to a select urban multiplex audience, and Made In Heaven is a phenomenon limited to streaming platform. Still, notions are changing somewhere, among the storytellers of Bollywood. There is some sort of a start.

Updated Date: Mar 29, 2019 16:09:07 IST