BOLLYWOOD GOES GAY?

hese days India may be going to confront one of its longest held taboos, as the film “Dunno Y … Na Jaane Kyun” (Don’t Know Why) threatens to present Bollywood with its first gay kiss on screen between the leading actors Yuvraaj Parashar and Kapil Sharma. After the controversy caused by the movie, Parashar’s real life parents have taken legal action to disown their (heterosexual) son because of the shame arising from his acting as a gay character, claiming to “not want to see his face even in death”; meanwhile, Kapil Sharma has recived some anonymous threatening letters accusing him to have betrayed Indian culture and tradition. In spite of that, Sanjay Sharma, Kapil’s brother and director of the film, says he believes that Indian audiences are “mature enough” to handle gay subject matter despite the fact the country only recently did away with colonial-era laws against homosexuality (only in 2009 High Court overturned a law outlawing homosexuality whose full legalization is expected but still must pass India’s Supreme Court). ‘Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun’ is the first Hindi film to look at a gay relationship with some degree of dispassionate honesty. According to Ashok Row Kavi, the editor of the country’s first gay magazine Bombay Dost, ”It talks of the complexities [of being gay] in India. Taboos are still very strong and hopefully it will change things.” Actually the lovemaking scene between Yuvraaj and Kapil is facing censorship. Kapil Sharma, who also wrote the film, says: “Why should the censors be scandalised if two men are kissing and making love? The ones in my film are very aesthetic. And so what if it’s two men making love? Love is love regardless of gender.” The storyline follows a gay model forced to compromise his morals for his career. He then forms an intimate relationship with another man, who is already married and lives with his family. Where Dunno Y.. tries to take it further than just a furtive liason is in the way it shows the relationship between the two men: the married man nearly reaches the point of breaking off with his wife, but his lover refuses to let him. For a Hindi movie, this is way beyond anything that’s been shown in the homosexual range till now. Not just in the way the men show skin and suck lip, but in the feelings they share: these are people who want to live together, not just have illicit sex.
But Dunno Y.. stops well short of being a desi My Beautiful Laundrette or Brokeback Mountain because it doesn’t go the mile. Scared of putting off viewers, it balances the guy thing with a gal thing: the neglected wife is made to have a fling with the gay husband’s younger brother who has the hots for her. It also situates the gay man and his predicament in a much-too complicated Anglo-Indian family, which has an absconding father (Kabir Bedi), a still-youthful mother (Zeenat Aman in a comeback role which gets her to declaim rather than act most of the time) who submits to her lecherous boss because she wants the extras—not for herself, but for her family, which is acknowledged by her cantankerous ma-in-law (Helen) at a crucial moment. Most of the reviews blames the movie and agree to criticize the plot, the acting, even the capability to transmit the message: if the idea of the film was to drive home the point of going haywire in marital relationships and also the gay rights issues, then too, it does not score fully on the context as the story has too many issues to deal with and as a result it leads to something quite contrary to what it would probably have set out to achieve. Anyway, due to the film’s focus on a gay relationship, many have begun to compare the film to “Brokeback Mountain,” and are hoping that the film will challenge prejudice in a similar manner. Despite its size, Bollywood has long been unusually conservative – until recently even heterosexual kissing was considered shocking. Still, most established Bollywood stars are hesitant to kiss onscreen, and it was only this year that Love, Sex aur Dhoka was released, showing the first graphic heterosexual love scene (actually, even if a media storm raged over that film, the public didn’t seem upset). As for mainstream “gay” movies in India, by far the highest profile Indian movie to date was 2008 comedy Dostana which had two straight men pretending to be gay for convoluted reasons. The two men do kiss at one point, but it is as a “punishment” for their deceit. “September 11”, a film based upon the 9/11 attacks, was the first Bollywood film to show male buttocks.