by Shonit Nayan
The popular phrase defining cinema (a part of reel life) that “Cinema is the mirror of Society which reflects its inhabitant’s mindsets, emotions, expressions, and others attributes” is familiar to most of us irrespective of religion, nationality, and sexual orientations. The reel life scripts and portrayed has been acting as a medium of entertainment, inspiration, vectors of spreading humanity and equality, and other such diverse messages across the global map. The names of industries might differ in the terms of acronyms like Hollywood, Bollywood, Tollywood, Lollywood, and others as such however the sense of humanity, element of entertainment, drama, romance, social issues, tragedies, and many others parameters are common in these industries irrespective of geographical boundaries and human races.
Reel Life and its characters convey the multiple sets of emotions, messages, and teachings in a structured frame or canvas or Parda (a popular Indian word used for Screening movies) and the same phenomenon is equally applicable to one of the most vulnerable segments of society i.e. LGBTs who face hatred, humiliation, become an element of mimic and all sorts of physical as well as mental troubles on the ground of their sexual orientation. And the frame also picturizes the very cruel mindsets and pathetic attitude as in the words of Martin Scorsese “Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out”
Indian cinema industry popularly termed as Bollywood and its nexus with the representation of homosexuality on screen are not a one-day phenomena rather a continuous mechanism or chain journey which has been affected by multiple sources say our own rich historical ancient, medieval era texts, characters, and epics (Like Mahabharta, Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu as Mohini, Lord Shiva and many others as such), Hollywood, Literatures, Societal traditions; myths and stories (the list is quite long). The list of Indian cinema or particularly Bollywood portraying homosexuality on screen is more than the 50s and listing all of that cinema is a cumbersome task however one thing that can be clearly pointed out that the effect of these movies in terms of box office collections, raising awareness about LGBTs rights and last but not the least spreading the strong message in our society about the theme that “sexual orientation is a concern comes under right to privacy and freedom of sexual orientation guaranteed by our constitution” and not under some age-old section of IPC (377 particularly terming homosexuality an unnatural offense and penalizes for the same for sentence varying from 10 years to life imprisonment)which are irrelevant in the modern time frame, is dual.
On the one hand, its effect is positive but on the other hand, it has also raised eyebrows of viewers and some societal elements who advocate for preserving the culture and soughing homosexuality as a crime against nature and our rich traditions however in the very process they forget that in the shows/serials like Mahabharta, Om Namah Shivay and others (in others religions and belief system also) they accept the characters like Mohini, Narada turning into women and others as such. They put these into events and avatars(portrayed)as God’s Leela/Rasleela/Maya for the betterment of humanity. And here the ambiguity came into larger picture which are neither being addressed by our legislative organs, Judiciary(The SC’s decision in the year 2013 to restore IPC Section 377 while scrapping the judgment delivered by its subsidiary institution of Delhi HCs to decriminalize gay sex and striking down 377 by Justice A.P.Shah and Justice S. Murlidhar)
Renowned Director Deepa Mehata is one among pioneer filmmakers who proved her dares against this narrow mindset of looking at homosexuality as a crime and breach of natural emotions. As She directed this famous movie Fire(1996) revolving around a lesbian relationship between two women (roles being played by two renowned and strong actresses/actors namely Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das) who come together in their reel lives to fulfill their passion not out of choice but due to lack of the lack of acknowledgment from their spouses. The reel or screen names in this film led to an eventual ban for religious insensitivity.
Further, the movie titled Dostana (2008) where two prominent actors namely John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan played roles of a gay couple catches the limelight of viewers in a light and comic way.
In this series a movie titled “Shabnam Mousi(2005)” directed by Yogesh Bharadwaj in which popular actor Ashutosh Rana played the titular role portraying the role of a real-life Political representative Shabnam Mousi Bano who is the first transgender person to be elected to public office in India(Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly) sent out a strong message about the political representation of the community so that they can advocate strongly for their rights and liabilities and can take part in decision making/policy formulation process.
In this continued journey of reel life with portraying homosexuality the newly addition of a movie titled “Aligarh” directed by Hansal Mehta has put the demand of justice for this vulnerable community into one staircase ahead. In this movie popular actor known for his strong screen presence or so-called Jara Hatke roles, Manoj Bajpayee has played the reel character of real-life professor Dr. Shrinivas Ramchnadra Shiras who was sacked from his position of professor at the Aligarh Muslim University. This reflects the inability of so-called higher academic world to deny or to unable the very basic tenets of human rights which are decided not according to the individual freedom, space, and choices rather on his/her sexual preferences is not only a reflection of retarded mentality but also shows the backwardness of our societal mindsets.
Above mentioned instances of reel life are not merely the screen characters means for entertainment purpose rather the basic message being imparted via these all (i.e. movies,tv shows and all sorts of such visuals/documentaries, audios(for instance a rap song and produced by the funk-rock duo MAFAKA pronounced/vocal as “#377, Teri ma ki choodi, pehn ke dekhi mujhe aayi nahi puri” is kind of a personal creative expression of dissatisfaction and its aim is to continue the dialogue in an area where it’s necessary), web series and others variants are having create a progressive society where LGBTs community can also breathe freely in holistic dimensions.
Again some welcoming suggestions or moves that can be suggested here at this discussion that indulging real-life individual from this community to portray reel life characters in shows (Comedy Nights with Kapil and other), movies and other such platforms will not make the scene live and natural but also that will serve as a panacea for multiple obstacles which are being served by this community whether on the economic domain, social domain, and other domains. Further, it will help to include the work of LGBTs community persons into the national economic workforce and capital maximization.
More number of filmmakers, actors, and entire film fraternity has to come to spread a strong message via this visual screen about the protection of the rights of LGBTs so that the decision like the inclusion of transgender person as the third gender, reservation in political and employment scales and fields can be further strengthened in letter and spirit. And like the multicolored flags representing the LGBTs, the lives of millions of them become colorful in multidimensional domains a walks of life.
Road Ahead For a Better Future of LGBTs
It will be an injustice to an article writer if he/she does not narrate his/her own experience interlinked with such subject and as an individual, I have witnessed the sense of hate which are still largely spread in our country which is defined the very basic phrase of the tagline of “ Incredible India” and the inclusion of the keyword “incredible” primarily reflect another acronym i.e. “Diversity” however most of us has misunderstood the meaning of “Sexual diversity and orientation” which is also an integral element of this diversity.
Coming back to the experience which I witnessed during a train journey from the “oldest and capital city of knowledge” Varanasi (BHU) to Mayanagari (City of dream and Indian Cinema) i.e. Mumbai. At the station Satna (in Madhya Pradesh), There was a black coat wearing T.T.E. (Travelling Ticket Examiner, who verifies passengers tickets in Indian Railway) who belong to the third gender, boarded the train. This is a different experience in the context that as most of us are quite familiar with the experiences of facing Hizras (Indian acronym for transgender) across train journeys. As some of them who demands money often in the vulgar gestures and postures while clapping their hands became a matter of mixed emotions (embarrassment, cheer gender) and Railway has brought strict regulation against them and banned their entry in air-conditioned and slipper coaches (at least on paper) of trains due to some incident occurred in the past when some armed forces personals had thrown a transgender person out of a train. Returning back to that experience the T.T.E was become an element of surprise as well mimic for most of the passengers in the compartment, not due to the empowered presence of a person from LGBT community to Railway rather sick mentality of hate and mimic oriented towards this vulnerable section who are also like us.
Again railway is not a single enterprise where persons from this community are employed, as the footprints of their success can also be witnessed in some other sectors and public offices and highlighting the name of some person in this article will definitely send a message that they are equally competent and eligible for playing a multidimensional role in different walks of the professional world.
|Persons(LGBTs )/Institutions/Places or others||Area of Achievement/Position Held|
|K.Prithika Yasini||India’s First Transgender Police Officer(Tamilnadu Police,SI)|
|Coimbatore||India’s First Spa for transgender|
|Manobi Bandyopadhyay||India’s first transgender College Principle(in West Bengal|
|Padmini Prakash||India’s first transgender news anchor(Tamilnadu)|
|Transgender Welfare Organization||In Maharashtra & Tamilnadu for their social inclusion|
|Delta App||India’s first homegrown LGBTQIA community & Networking Application|
|Madhu Bai Kinnar||India’s first transgender Mayor(Raipur, Chhatisgarh)|
|Manvendra Singh Gohil||India’s first openly Gay prince(also opened an LGBT Center)|
|Wings Rainbow||India’s first LGBT Cab/Taxi Service(launched in Mumbai)|
From the above table, one fact can be shared that this community can engage in multiple professions as well as diverse sectors of the organized and unorganized domain, however, the journey of change is still in its nascent stage in India and they still face all sorts of catastrophic incidents in their lives on a daily basis (the detail of some of those are briefly outlined in forthcoming paragraphs followed by the solution-oriented framework as well as the road ahead for their upliftment.)
Most of them worldwide face personal tragedies throughout their childhood to death in terms of childhood bullying, drop out from schools, rejected by their parents/guardians, joblessness and lack of respect at the workplace, food insecurity, poverty, suicidal tendencies(the rate of committing suicides are more than general people), depression, social stigma, and many others pathetic experiences.
To indulge them in the workforce to avoid economic and capital losses, mental counseling centers for them at schools and tender age, educate them to raise the quite low rate of literacy among LGBT community, avoid all sorts of discrimination and make a legal framework on paper and grassroots, counting their exact population(as Government of India has taken a welcoming move in its Census 2011 for the very first time by counting their population that is >4,90,00), decriminalizing old and irrelevant rule causing attachment of identity to one’s sexual orientation and threat and prejudice to one’s right to live with dignity, privacy and freedom are some of the welcoming and positive move that can bring them into the mainstream.
About the Author:
Shonit Nayan is a Research Consultant at a Delhi Based Institution, & a former Research Assistant at the Indian Institute of Public Administration.