homosexuality in popular hindi cinema

Topics: Homosexuality, Lesbian, LGBT Pages: 7 (2547 words) Published: July 3, 2015

Homosexuality in Popular
Hindi Cinema
Abstract:India is a country with vibrant popular culture. Nowhere is the collective consciousness of the nation probably better essayed than in the cinema, which is viewed with passionate enthusiasm. Taking Popular Hindi Cinema as a mainstay of Indian culture, this article tries to create a link between the depiction of homosexuality in Popular Hindi Cinema and the society. Different viewpoints are looked from and observed in Indian popular culture, such as the non – acceptance of homosexuality by some quarters, the crude stereotyping and the slowly emerging new wave of thought that treats the subject with a compassionate eye, and gives it a humane treatment.

Submitted by :
Vivek Maheshwary

Many Bollywood movies have explored various social issues such as child marriage, polygamy, dowry system, casteism and terrorism. However, homosexuality, a taboo subject in Indian society and religion, has yet not been fully explored in Bollywood. “Homosexuality refers to sexual behaviour with or attraction to people of the same sex or to a homosexual orientation.” Gay refers to male homosexuality whereas lesbian refers to female homosexuality.

Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya,
Jab pyaar kiya to darna kya,
Pyaar kiya koi chori nahi ki,
Chhup chhup aahein bharna kya..
The above song is from the movie Mughal-E-Azam can be translated as ‘What is there to be afraid of if you have loved? You have only loved someone and not stolen anything, then why you are hiding and sighing’.

This song may well apply to the homosexual couples in Indian society who despite of their love for each other can’t come out in a society which disapproves of such relationship and the imposition of heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the cultural bias in favour of oppositesex relationships of a sexual nature, and against same-sex relationships of a sexual nature. In a democratic and pluralistic country like India, we have a law that abuses human rights and limits fundamental freedoms such as is enumerated in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The credit for this goes to Lord Macaulay, who drafted Section 377 of the IPC in 1883 which states:

“Whosoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years or liable to fine.” The ludicrous phrase in this 129-year-old law is ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’ Who is to decide what is ‘against’ and what is ‘for’ the law of nature? Aren’t the laws of nature about sexual relationships themselves subject to the changeability with time, space and person? Aren’t they about social conventions of life and behaviour?

Indian society is largely conservative and the films dealing with the subject of homosexuality, centring on the problem of homosexuality, are in reality being made for a society where it is still deemed taboo to talk about homosexuality openly, let alone expose the issue on the big screen. But the contemporary Indian cinema has undergone substantial changes over the last couple of decades. To be at a same stage as that of the rest of the world in this age of globalisation and modernisation which is trying to shake some of our cultural roots, some Indian film directors have attempted to deviate from the typical romantic movies to try and delve into controversial and even taboo topics such as homosexuality. 

To discuss about the portrayal of homosexual characters in Popular Hindi Cinema, we can broadly defined it into two categories:- one consists of movies like Fire, Girlfriend, My Brother Nikhil, Dostana I Am where the homosexual characters are central to the narrative of the movie and other consists of movies like Kal Ho Na Ho (KHNH), Rules Pyaar Ka Superhit Formula, Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.,...

References: 1. Gays and Lesbians in Indian Cinema by Shoma A. Chatterji
2. The issue of lesbianism in contemporary indian films: a comparative study of
transnational, bollywood and regional films by Gurpreet Kaur , NUS
3. Homosexuality and homophobia in indian popular Culture : reflections of the
law ? - Danish Sheikh, NALSAR Student Law Review, Vol. 4, 2008
4. Homosexuals in Bollywood Movies by Anuja Hyoju and Prabisha Shrestha (asianuniversity.org)
5. http://www.wikipedia.org/ (various definitions have been taken from there)
6. http://www.iamthefilms.com/i-am/iam-the-film.html
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