It’s already clear that 2018 will be remembered as a benchmark year for LGBTQ rights in India. But, can the same be said for queer cinema in India? Probably not!
While gay and lesbian characters are finding finally their places in Western Cinema and Television, India is still way too behind. With only one LGBTQ themed film (Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga) releasing in 2019, it’s not wrong to say that India isn’t going to embrace gay characters in movies and TV anytime soon. In this blog, we will try to figure out why aren’t we making enough gay themes movies in India.
1. Indian Film Industry largely is homophobic
While it’s true that since 2013 considerable voices have been heard has during the LGBT rights movement in India, Bollywood hasn’t clearly reached anything close to the absolute lack of homophobia. Apart from Ayushman Khurana, Sonam Kapoor and Manoj Bajpai no mainstream star has played a gay character in Indian movies. Ayushman Khurana, who will be seen playing a gay character in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan said in an interview that many leading men from the Industry have said “No” to playing his love interest in the film. Well, if they claim to be experimental actors, we feel sorry for them.
2. Gay characters have always been seen as comic relief
If Karan Johar could do anything good for the Indian LGBTQ community apart from coming out to the public that would be not stereotyping gay characters in his films. Be it Dostana or Student of The Year (in which Rishi Kapoor played a gay character), the portrayal of gay men in his films is extremely stereotypical. All gays characters from his films are laughable and ridiculed. No wonder if that added to Homophobia across egoistic straight actors. Besides, having Bobby Darling playing those inconsequential roles in movies like Style, Kya Kool Hai Hum didn’t do anything good for Indian LGBTQ’s representation in Bollywood movies either.
3. Indian Gay themed movies don’t make money
It’s not absolutely true that gay-themed movies weren’t ever made in the country. In pre-377 India, we had movies like Aligarh, Margarita with a Straw and My Bother Nikhil having limited, but theatrical releases. All these films, in their own way, addressed the prevalent homophobia in Indian society. But, they didn’t make any money. The economics of commercial cinema is simple – if your film doesn’t do well finically, no one wants to produce it.
4. LGBTQ films don’t reach across India
Even if you make films around gay characters, how many of them end up getting distribution? Indian films receive their profit from small cities and towns. It’s optimistic to suggest more than 1 out of 10 LGBTQ themed films will receive distribution deals in India. Gay themed films that get released in urban centers and multiplexes reach more than a handful of screens nationwide. So it’s also more about fewer LGBT films being released in India than less of them being made.
5. Independent LGBTQ themed films are poorly made
We can thank the exploding population of India for only one reason – We have more LGBTQ community members in India than anywhere else (probably China) in the world. For this very good reason, many gay directors are making gay-themed movies, most of which are available on YouTube. However, due to no support from investors, they are of extremely poor production quality. Let’s take The Pink Mirror (Gulabi Aaina in Hindi) for an example.
Though enough Independent, small budget LGBTQ themed content is being produced, it’s less marketable. Unlike Hollywood, studios simply aren’t touching films with lead gay characters. And without studios backing them, it’s harder to get marketable stars or media coverage to even try and rake in some money.