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While watching a movie, how many times have you thought: “Oh my God! This is so unrealistic! Well, it’s just a movie so whatever…”
In many cases, these unrealistic depictions don’t really have negative effects. Like all the utter nonsense in Hollywood Sci-Fi movies. It doesn’t really affect anyone. At least, that can be said about most mainstream Hollywood movies. The same can’t be said about Indian cinema.

One time when I happened to be watching an Indian movie with my friend, a homosexual character appeared on-screen. I started ranting a bit about the portrayal. My friend replied: “Well he’s gay so..”. I took a double take.

Wait. What?

There are people who think these portrayals are true?
There are people who think these portrayals are true and think what they do is fine?

I don’t even know what’s worse. I mean, a majority of the portrayals of LGBTQ+ in Indian cinema are of people who can’t keep it in their pants! How could anyone possibly think these portrayals are true?

But then it hit me. What gives me the right to be so self-righteous when a time existed when I had similar thoughts? I’m sad to say that back when I first heard the word ‘homosexuality’, and found out what it meant, I was repulsed. Indian movies were my only source of exposure to the subject at the time. The stigma was only reinforced by society. Back in grade school, being branded a homosexual seemed like the worst possible thing that could happen to you. The amount of disgust kids used when calling someone “gay” or “lesbian”! Well you can’t call their stigma totally unwarranted considering the limited exposure they had.

Here are some clips if you think I’m exaggerating :

Those are some examples of what passes for comedy in Indian movies. Apparently it is normal for a homosexual or transgender person to go about inappropriately touching random people who are obviously not interested in the attention as is crystal clear from their demeanor. Or to make a bunch of innuendos. Or to act in what the director considers “a feminine manner”. Puh-lease. No sane human makes those weird floaty hand-gestures. No wonder a lot of Indians think that they’re crazy and that homosexuality is a mental illness.

The worst part is, these portrayals are supposed to be funny. They are not funny. They are absolutely disgusting, demeaning and revolting. If you find these scenes even remotely funny, please think again. Would it be funny if it were a guy behaving in the same manner with some random girl who does not want the attention? People would scream assault (I hope)! But flip the gender of either or both and voilà! Comedy! Then again, the portrayals in Indian cinema are limited to homosexual men and transgender women. Guess no one would find it funny if it were a lesbian acting the same way, huh?

A majority of our country is homophobic. It was when I first watched Modern Family that I realized how far from reality the portrayals in Indian cinema are. I was shocked to see how normal Mitch and Cam were. Now I’m at the point where I think they’re one of the cutest on-screen couples ever.

Clips from Modern Family: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_Cd6XfGs6Y

I don’t expect to see complete realism anytime soon in Indian movies considering the limited freedom and acceptance the LGBTQ+ community has in our country by society and by law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code to be precise. This is an archaic law, directly lifted from the British Laws present during Independence and it is no wonder that this law has now been repealed in Britain. India however, has her work cut out. Change can only take place if there are more people in support of this rather than against it. But how will Indians ever accept that people of the LGBTQ+ community are normal if Indian movies continue to portray them in such a degrading manner? In fact, it would be much better if movies didn’t portray them at all rather than portray them like this.

Thinking about this issue made me realize that perhaps there are people who believe in some of the other unrealistic depictions in Indian cinema and that there could be dire consequences of the same.

For example, observe how in a bunch of Indian movies, a guy stalks a girl and lies to her until she accepts him.
Or objectification of women.
Or gender roles.

I could list so many more.

Perhaps most people realize that these things aren’t right. But there might still be a small fraction of people that do believe these things are alright, and their misconceptions are only reinforced by such movies. Adding to that, whenever someone does point out issues in Indian movies, they are usually shot down and scoffed at. Obviously, movies aren’t the only things to blame. I’m just saying that they are probably adding to the problem. I think that directors, actors, screenwriters and everyone involved should refuse to have anything to do with a movie with such depictions. This needs to start with big names putting their foot down. Only then can we hope for any change.

-Meghana Manusanipalli

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Meghana Manusanipalli

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