Indian film talkshow The Front Row with Anupama Chopra discusses alternative sexuality in Bollywood this week.
Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival director Sridhar Rangayan, openly gay filmmaker Onir, director Karan Johar and actors Randeep Hooda and Saqib Saleem were guests on the show, broadcasting tonight at 8.30pm.
The guests discuss the recently released Bombay Talkies, an anthology of four short films including one, directed by Johar about a gay relationship.
On The Front Row Johar said he was worried about what the public would presume about his personal life because he directed a gay love story.
‘But I think the cine-goers and the reviewers handled it with so much dignity,’ he said, Wall Street Journal India Real Time blog reports.
‘I feel liberated because I feel I did it. I put it out there and today I feel I can tell any story as a result of my short at Bombay Talkies.’
Onir said the mainstream release and success of Bombay Talkies is good for independent filmmakers like him.
‘I think exhibitors, studios will open up a little bit more saying that, “Yes, there is an audience which is accepting it.” said Onir, whose film I Am with a similar structure and topic was released last year.
‘To be constantly told that there is no audience for the films that you make is disheartening and when one sees another film which is also addressing similar stories, is accepted and celebrated then it kind of empowers you more.’
Hooda, who played one half of the gay couple in Johar’s short, said he did hesitate about playing a gay character, but then he thought ‘If I can play a murderer, if I can play a ruthless gangster or a drunk cop, this is also an aspect of our human nature which needs exploration and I can’t thank Karan enough for being encouraging [to] me and giving me this role because I really felt proud when I saw it.’
Rangayan said portrayal of LGBT characters in Indian cinema has improved in recent years. ‘In the last decade you have seen films coming up which have been sensitive,’ he said ‘But I think it’s not enough.’
The director of Mumbai’s LGBT film festival added that the gay characters in Bombay Talkies are not stereotypes. ‘There are two men living out their lives,’ he said. ‘There is no caricature. It does touch your heart.’
But Rangayan questioned why the story had to have ‘home-breaking’ ending.
‘If you have a happy, gay man, it would be great. As a filmmaker, I loved the film but as an activist, I just feel like it kind of sets back things for us in many ways… Bombay Talkies did push the envelope in some way. And I am sure healthy discussion will happen in some way or the other.’
Watch the trailer for Bombay Talkies here: