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Silence and the killer: Versatile beast, diversity needs to be handled with care

Silence 2: The Night Owl Bar Shootout, a Manoj Bajpayee crime thriller, went through several twists, turns and red-herrings before nailing a gender-confused person as the heartless killer

Bharathi S. Pradhan Published 21.04.24, 07:30 AM

There is a beast called diversity, sometimes interchanged with the word inclusivity, which needs to be handled with care.

Silence 2: The Night Owl Bar Shootout, a Manoj Bajpayee crime thriller, went through several twists, turns and red-herrings before nailing a gender-confused person as the heartless killer. Aban Bharucha Deohans, the writer-director, probably set out to give a nod to diversity which mandates that a homosexual/transgender be included in a narrative. She wove in a pity-me monologue too for the killer, who lingered on the familiar tale of childhood trauma that led to “them” becoming a sexually sadistic criminal.


Last year, Vidya Balan too did the inclusive act when she was revealed as the mastermind lesbian at the end of a thriller titled Neeyat. There was also an unwatchable Nawazuddin Siddique film, Haddi, in which he played a transgender who hacks bodies like it’s just another day at work. But does inclusivity of this nature serve its purpose if the sexually different person is shown as a twisted sadist, most times reeling under borderline personality disorder (BPD)? The source of criminality is most often traced to frustration/self-pity/revenge born out of sexual complexities and societal rebuff. But doesn’t that reinforce popular misconception, revulsion and fear against homosexuals and transgenders?

True, the LGBTQ community has been behind some disturbing crimes. An Internet search threw up names of horrifyingly deviant serial killers. Here are two, both from America.

John Wayne Gacy had tortured, maimed and killed 33. He was known as the Killer Clown — performing publicly as a clown until the law caught up with him. Disturbingly, Gacy had been let off lightly after being arrested for sodomy of a young boy in 1968. Thirty- three victims may have been alive if the law had dealt firmly with him after his first registered sexual crime.

Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer was known as the Milwaukee Monster or Milwaukee Cannibal. His chilling crimes included necrophilia, cannibalism and dismemberment of 17. Diagnosed with BPD, he identified as gay during puberty and showed a fascination for dead animals from an early age.

Sexually different killers have been notoriously famous but, percentage-wise, there are more heterosexual criminals. If that doesn’t make every hetero a suspect, why should a miniscule percentage represent the entire community? That’s what cinema inad-
vertently does when it aims to be inclusive but ends up damning them as emotionally unstable and capable of inflicting cruelty.

When cinema (OTT shows included) isn’t associating them with morbid crime, it makes them stand out as objects of pity. The intention may be to spotlight society’s unfairness but the pity factor creeps in. Like Made In Heaven Season 3, where the diversity was so laboured that it was a strain. Even Dibakar Banerjee’s remarkably updated LSD2, released this Friday, played on sympathy for the trans, unable to let “them” make a seamless fit in society.

Diversity is not about sexuality alone. Take Bade Miyan Chote Miyan (BMCM). The writer-director was so preoccupied with calibrating inclusivity in his characters that he forgot to balance the other ingredients necessary for a commercial entertainer. Films like Pathaan (2023) and Ali’s own Tiger Zinda Hai (2017) also had a multi-religious mix with situations that pushed for aman between countries without damning one community as terrorists. No fight with that as these films also ensured a balance of all the other essentials. A point that Ali seemed to have overlooked in BMCM.

Handling diversity is like mixing chemicals in a lab. If you don’t get the combo right, it could blow up in your face.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author

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