Gay in Bollywood

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By BHARATHI S. PRADHAN
  • Published 2.11.08
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In this season of remakes, the joke going around is, if Karan Johar were to remake Raj Kapoor’s Bobby today, the song that he’d picturise in Goa would go, Gay gay gay gay gay, gay gay saibaan, and it would star two heroes. It’s suddenly okay to be gay and Hindi cinema is, as always, going overboard with its new permissiveness. While our honorable minister for health, A. Ramadoss, wants our lawmakers to do a rethink on Article 377 that prohibits same sex relationships, there’s Karan Johar’s full-scale gay comedy coming up which mixes Two Guys And A Girl with Chuck and Larry.

Karan had tentatively dabbled in gay comedy way back in Kal Ho Naa Ho where the Kantabai track (with Shah Rukh and Saif Ali Khan) had kept the audience giggling for more. The two Khans had taken the ‘partnership’ further by carrying the gay scene onto the stage when they compered a popular awards function.

Unfortunately, the success of K Jo’s Kantabai has spawned such a tiresome spate of me-too gay scenes that every second Hindi film tries to raise a laugh using the same ruse. Recently, Hello had call centre employees Sharman Joshi and Sohail Khan falling out of the loo together, much to boss Dalip Taahil’s amusement. The audience got another dose of the same ingredient in Golmaal Returns where Ajay Devgan, Shreyas Talpade and Tusshar are huddled together in a heap, leading to the same ‘comic’ misunderstanding by an onlooker.

Madhur Bhandarkar doesn’t spare us either. Fashion provided a readymade platform for portraying a gay relationship and Madhur used it well when he had designer Samir Soni, gay as a drunken lord, appeasing his mother and going in for a marriage of convenience with model Mugdha Godse. It’s a completely understandable dilemma faced by gay men in Indian society. But did Madhur have to -D on homosexuality? Priyanka Chopra’s male friend in the city was also a ‘fairy’ and there were the usual feeble attempts at comedy (replete with mannerisms) when he asked Samir Soni’s partner if he had a brother or a cousin who looked as gorgeous as him. There was a Rohit Bal lookalike too, another gay designer in the front row at every fashion show. Fashion didn’t have to pack in the gays as if the film was revealing something never seen before.

But then Madhur has always had a predilection for homosexual leanings in his actors. In Chandni Bar, Tabu’s young son is sodomised in jail. In Page 3, the socialite’s husband, actor Nasir Abdullah, is a paedophile, toying around with male kids while Konkona Sen catches her boyfriend with his pants down with a male celebrity who can help him on the party circuit. So, when Madhur goes into the world of Fashion, he’s as gleeful as a school boy let loose in Toys R Us — help yourself, kiddo, and Madhur does just that.

If Karan’s little Kantabai could set off four relentless years of similar comedy in film after film, wonder what a full-on gay comedy like Dostana will do to Hindi cinema. Meanwhile, there’s already a whisper that Subhash Ghai’s new film Paying Guest has a Dostana-like premise. So stand by folks, the gays are here to stay.

A question that is thrown up is, are actors now game to experiment with alternate sexuality on screen? There was a time when a B.R. Films’ discovery called Deepak Parashar (he did pathbreaking films like Nikkah and Insaf Ka Tarazu for the famous banner) went into oblivion for years because there was a whisper about his sexuality. It doesn’t seem to bother Abhishek Bachchan or John Abraham who are too confident of their sexuality to let a role inhibit them.

But even film-makers have to watch out for the inevitable innuendos. Laughs Tarun Mansukhani, the first-time director of Dostana, “A media person asked me pointblank, ‘Are you in a relationship?’ And I answered, poker-faced, ‘Yes, I am, with my wife’. The scribe almost fell off his chair with disappointment!” Aw, the director of Dostana is not gay.

Hey, psst!
Everybody knows that Madhur Bhandarkar had filmed a lip-to-lip smooch between Samir Soni and his partner in Fashion, a shot which was edited out in a bid at self-censorship. But what many do not know is that Madhur had initially asked Sanjay Suri to do that role. Suri, who had acted in and produced My Brother Nikhil (where he had played an AIDS patient with aplomb), apparently chickened out and that’s how Samir Soni came aboard. Playing gay once too often is injurious to one’s image!

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor Movie Mag International