June is Pride Month, wherein the LGBTQIA+ community around the world celebrate their rights and culture. It is characterised by a spirit of struggle and acceptance rather than a shameful attitude. In India, the LGBTQ population has suffered in a variety of ways, including emotional and physical abuse. The Supreme Court of India officially struck down repressive Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, bringing smiles and relief to the LGBTQ community. We still have a long way to go till the people of the community feel safe and accepted by the mainstream media and society.
Meanwhile, the community has even been stereotyped and mocked in film representations. But, beyond the parody, there are some outstanding films that have attempted to break the mould by portraying the LGBTQIA+ stories with empathy.
The now-forgotten Badnam Basti (1970) was one of the first films to deal with the same concept; after Badnam Basti, there was a severe pause in films dealing with LGBTQIA+ themes until 1996, when Bomgay was released. The same year also saw Fire (1996), which was followed by other films like Daayra (1996), Gulabi Aaina (1997), Darmiyaan (1997), Sancharram (2004), Arekti Premer Golpo (2010), Memories of March (2010), Chitrangada: The Crowning Wish (2012), Loev (2015), and Njan Marykutty (2018).
Five LGBTQ Films On OTT:
The story follows Radha, who is separated from her husband and, disturbed by her infertility, adheres to the teachings of a swami who preaches chastity. Sita, her sister-in-law, is upset because her husband does not love her. Sita kisses Radha directly one day, and the next day, Radha dresses Sita’s hair, and they are soon in love. The plot simply depicts two women who marry men but find real affection in one another. The lesbian couple’s role were played by Shabana Azmi ( Radha) and Nandita Das (Sita). Because homosexuality was not widely acknowledged or discussed in India in 1900, Deepa Mehta’s 1996 film created quite a stir.
Despite the fact that Fire set a trend for the queer community and is widely regarded as one of the best films ever made about lesbians, activists from one political party smashed movie theatres showing the film three weeks after its release in India, calling it immoral and anti-Indian culture. The movie is now available to view on OTT.
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My Brother Nikhil, 2005
The story follows Nikhil, a state swimming champion who is admired by his parents and sister Anamika. Nikhil is a gay man/homosexual man who meets Nigel at a party and falls in love with him. Nikhil’s world, however, is turned upside down when his swim team’s doctor calls to inform him that he has been diagnosed with HIV. Only his sister Anu and lover Nigel stay by him in the face of adversity, while his friends and family blame his illness on his sexual identity. My Brother Nikhil stars Juhi Chawla as Anamika, Sanjay Suri as Nikhil, and Purab Kohli as Nigel.
My Brother Nikhil was one of the first films to focus on the taboos surrounding AIDS and was one of the first to include a gay man’s love story. Onir, the film’s director, stated that the story is based on true historical events and that the standard disclaimer about fictitious content was simply a compromise with the Indian government in order to get the film made. The film earned positive reviews from critics.
Watch on Zee 5
Margarita with a Straw, 2014
Margarita With a Straw is a film about a cerebral palsy woman named Laila who is obsessed with sex and masturbates while watching online porn sites. Laila develops a sexual relationship with another man, despite her love for Khanum, a blind Pakistani-Bangladeshi girl. Khanum is unhappy when Laia tells him about her relationship with that man, but Laila argues she doesn’t want secrets between them. Laila eventually musters the courage to inform her mother about her bisexuality and relationship with Khanum. She comes out as bisexual to her mother and the rest of the world. Shonali Bose’s film features Sayani Gupta and Kalki Koechlin as Khanum and Laila Kapoor, respectively.
Watch on Netflix
Suggested Reading: The Pride Month: Has India Inc Progressed?
The film begins with a television crew from a local TV station forcibly entering a male professor Siras’ home and filming him having sex with a male rickshaw-puller. Siras is fired from his job and is forced to leave his university housing. His case is taken up in court after he is contacted by a sympathetic journalist. The film is based on the true story of Aligarh Muslim University professor Ramchandra Siras, who was expelled from the university after having consensual sex with a rickshaw driver. Manoj Bajpayee plays Professor Siras, while Raj Kummar Rao plays a journalist who tries to recount his story.
The film looks at what it means to be a gay man in Indian society, as well as the discrimination that members of the queer community face. The film, as well as the actor’s performance, earned favourable feedback.
Watch on Zee 5, Amazon Prime Video
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, 2020
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is a film about two gay lovers, Kartik (Ayushman Khurrana) and Aman (Jitendra Kumar). Kartik believes that his passionate love will melt Aman’s family, but Aman is a small-town man who is afraid of a violent family conflict. Aman tries to collect the guts to come out to his family, but he fails until his father sees him kissing Kartik. The gay couple then tries to persuade the family to reconsider their decision. In India, the film focuses on the relationship between homosexual males and the prejudices that come with it. The film aims to bring the queer community into the mainstream by treating like a happening romantic comedy instead of a grim tale of violence and discrimination.
Watch on Amazon Prime Video