Discussions on the portrayal of gay and lesbianism in new Indian Cinema at 13th Mumbai Film Festival’s 5th day

With the 13th Mumbai Film Festival on in full swing, Monday was the least bit blue. While ‘Pina’  was undoubtedly the movie that was on most people’s ‘to watch’ list and enthusiasts queued up outside the auditorium three hours prior to the show timing, movies such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘17 Girls’, ‘Revolution Revisited’ and ‘Fabienne’ were the other highlights for the day. Celebrity guests for included Yash Chopra, Ramesh Sippy along with wife Kiran and son Rohan Sippy, Shabana Azmi, Tarun Mansukhani, Anurag Kashyap, Rohan Sippy, Abhishek Kapoor, Ranvir Shorey, Shahana Goswami and Rajit Kapoor amongst many others.

The 5th day saw a packed house discussing the portrayal of gay and lesbianism in new Indian Cinema. Tarun Mansukhani, Aseem Chabbra, Onir, Rajit Kapoor, Sridhar Rangayan and Rajeev Masand were present.

Speaking on the conservativeness of homosexuality in Indian Cinema Tarun Mansukhani said, “There is homophobia in our country. In Dostana, I was not joking on the community, in fact, all gay men in the movie were proud of it. But If John and Abhishek were really gay they would not have played the characters nor would have anyone bought the film”. Rajit expressed that the topic should be dealt with a lot of sensitivity. “In India, women don’t even want to play the role of mothers, so lesbian characters are farfetched.” he said.

Onir whose movies ‘My Brother Nikhil’ and ‘I Am’ deals with homosexuality quipped, “I don’t get producers easily, they always tell me a “no”. What is obscene in two men kissing?” Commenting the homophobic nature of Indian viewers, Shridhar said, “There is more anxiety in Indian audience than homophobia. If the audience will look at them normally, actors will react normally on such roles.” Aseem added, “The understanding of the lifestyle of queers is the main issue which is to be dealt with first. The country has a long way to go before a full acceptance.”

‘A Decent Arrangement’ directed by debutant director Sarovar Banka and starring Shaban Azmi was also screened at the Mumbai film festival in the section Film India Worldwide. When asked about working with first time directors Shabana Azmi said, “I can easily say I have worked with largest number of first time directors. They rejuvenate me, their passion is immensely allergic.” Giving her views on Indian cinema going global and many Hollywood producers coming to India to shoot their movies she said, “World is becoming a global village. It’s very interesting to know their views on India. For me, working has been like being in the right place at the right time.”

In the evening Gajendra Ahire, Alka Kubal- Athalye, Rajesh Pinjani and Samrudhi Pore discussed about the focus on the Marathi film industry. Alka said, “These days English is becoming a preferred language amongst youngsters and across a lot of sectors, but that is not taking away from the increasing standards of Marathi cinema.”

The fifth day concluded on the same level of excitement it started with.  One looks forward to the 6th day of the 13th Mumbai Film Festival with more stars and equally important films raining on cine goers and festival attendees.