Congratulations to all Indian LGBTI people, and India as a whole! Today, the world’s second most-populated country legalized homosexuality.
India’s Supreme Court overturned the ban in a landmark ruling following weeks of petitioning from lawyers representing a group of LGBTI activists in the country.
Section 377 was a Colonial-era British law criminalizing sexual activities ‘against the order of nature’, including homosexual activities. It was introduced by the British in the 1860s.
To celebrate the news, here, we look at four amazing, recent Indian films featuring LGBTI characters and couples, plus one dating from 1996…
1 Evening Shadows
Set in Mumbai and South India, the sweet and tender Evening Shadows centers on a young man coming out to his mum. When he does so – revealing he has a partner in the process – her world comes crumbling down, as she’s caught between traditional social mores and a dogmatic husband.
The film is set around the recriminalization of homosexuality in Dec 2016 that put so many LGBTQ persons back into the closet.
Filmmakers celebrated after it received a U/A rating, meaning parental guidance advised for anyone under 12. In reality, that means parents can take their children to see it, if they choose to do so.
2 Loev (2015)
Although released in 2015, Loev found a new audience after it was added to Netflix last year. As such, we named it one of our favorite LGBTI-themed films of 2017.
Inspired by director Sudhanshu Saria’s own life, this intimate story sees two men who used to be lovers reunited in Mumbai. They embark on a road trip through the stunning natural beauty of the Mahabaleshwar region. Along the way, they contemplate whether to act on the quiet longing that exists between them.
While tender and beautiful, the film is also a brutally honest exploration of incompatibility. While Sahil has come to terms with his sexuality (indeed, he already has a boyfriend) Jai, who’s in the closet, is reluctant to act on his feelings.
Tinged with sadness, the film is all the more emotive because one of its stars, Dhruv Ganesh, sadly passed away from tuberculosis before the film was released.
3 Fire (1996)
One of the most iconic movies exploring LGBTI love to ever come out of India is the powerful indie, Fire.
So compelling is the story that upon release this 90s classic went ‘viral’ in the country, according to the Indian Express. And this was before the age of Twitter and Facebook!
The movie sees two sisters-in-laws fall in love and the effects of their affair on their middle-class family home in Delhi, and society beyond.
It prompted a storm of controversy in its homeland upon release, while picking up a slew of awards at film festivals elsewhere. It’s fondly remembered, and currently has an 87% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
4 Aligarh (2015)
This celebrated Bollywood film is based on the shocking story of a gay Indian professor who died under mysterious circumstances.
It is inspired by the late Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, who was a Marathi language professor at Aligarh Muslim University.
He was fired after a TV crew caught him at home with his male lover. However, he appealed in court, and the university was ultimately ordered to reinstate him. Sadly, he died before he ever returned to work, with many suspecting he was murdered.
The emotive Aligarh spotlights Shrinivas’s story after he loses his job, examining his connection with sympathetic journalist Deepu.
5 Margarita With a Straw (2014)
Margarita With a Straw is powered by a staggering central performance from Indian-born French actress Kalki Koechlin, who plays a life-loving (and extremely frisky) teenager with cerebral palsy named Laila.
Although some questioned whether a person with the movement disorder ought to have been cast in the role, Koechlin’s brave, sensitive portrayal, which so easily could have misfired, is studied and convincing.
In the film, Laila escapes her first romantic rejection by crossing an ocean, leaving a Delhi university for one in NYC. The beautiful student fearlessly takes on the challenge, meanwhile attracting the attention of two equally beautiful admirers. Firstly, a beautiful blind Indian activist named Khanum. Second, a handsome Brit named Jared.
Laila slowly settles into her first same-sex relationship, while also coming to terms with her bisexual identity. However, her progress is thrown into disarray after she returns to Delhi to visit family. Hard times await – her mother’s response to her coming out is just the beginning – but in this gorgeous, inspiring film, Laila faces adversity head on.