For years, cinema has struggled to portray the LGBTQ community in their creations. From being stereotyped as the loud third gender Hijda (eunuch) characters to depicting gay men as effeminate characters hitting on other male casts, Bollywood and mainstream cinema have created set notions for homosexuals and transgenders which is far from the realistic portrayal, and are more often a subject of mockery and ridicule in the narrative.
From Dostana, to Student of the Year to Bollywood has always struggled to come out of its closet and accept the heteronormative portrayal of the community. But over the years, things have also evolved to a certain extent because when we see a movie like Shubh Mangal Savadhaan making big at the box office, we also realize that the Indian audience is more woke and acceptance of such characters.
Till actors continue to crossdress and act/dance in movies and on stages during award functions (insert here movies like Kya Cool Hain Hum, Humshakals) and the audience continues to find such acts funny and comical, we cannot at any point in time claim acceptance or respect for all genders and sexual orientations. Casual sexism continues to exist in all forms and is propagated by people of all backgrounds and classes this way.
Though the portrayal of homosexuality and homosexual characters still remains a joke in most mainstream movies, references to homosexuality in regional cinema remain more closer to reality, some of them portraying the struggles of the community with acceptance of self and society. My Brother Nikhil, Aligarh, Surviving Subu, Evening Shadows are among some other movies, who highlighted the social stigmas and dilemmas of being gay.
While the portrayal of gay characters compared to lesbians has been more while depicting homosexuality in Indian cinema, this is only a reflection of how the society is still not ready to accept its women openly embracing homosexuality among other things. Remember the uproar that Deepa Mehta’s movie Fire had caused during its release in 1997 for its depiction of same-sex love?
Here are 5 movies which made a mark for its portrayal of lesbian relationship
Actress Rohini Hattangadi and Ujwala Jog played lesbian lovers in Vijay Tendulkar’s Marathi film ‘Mitrachi Goshta’ (My friend’s story) in as early as1981 where this concept of same-sex love was unheard of even. It portrays LGBT issues and the relationship between two friends, Sumitra and Nama.
Margarita with a straw
Margarita with a Straw is a 2014 Hindi movie directed by Shonali Bose. It stars Kalki Koechlin as an Indian teenager with cerebral palsy who relocates to America for her undergraduate education and discovers her sexuality following her complex relationship with a blind girl, played by Sayani Gupta.
Angry Indian Goddesses
Freida (Sarah-Jane Dias) is a fashion photographer who invites a group of friends to her family’s home to announce her marriage but won’t say who her betrothed is. Later, the ladies learn that Freida will marry Nargis which was illegal in 2015 when the movie was made.
‘141′ a 2015 movie is directed by Bavaji.V and featured Farooq Khan and Tanya as lead characters. This Kannada film portrayed a lesbian relationship between an Indian and a Russian/American womanand how they have to face the wrath of society. This was a very brave attempt for the Kannada film industry and stirred up a hornet’s nest.
2004 Malayalam movie ‘Sancharram, The Journey’ portrays the relationship between two young girls. Directed by Ligy J. Pullappally, and a true-life story, this film is set in a small community in Kerala and is the story of two young women, Kiran, a Hindu, and Delilah, a Catholic.
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