Despite the global strides for equality within the LGBT Community, in India, homosexuality is still illegal. Thus making Homosexuality in Bollywood, one of India’s most mainstream film industries, almost a way of highlighting the LGBT issues the country faces. Unlike other social issues making their way into the films, the topic of Homosexuality hasn’t been too widely covered within Bollywood. However, some prolific filmmakers and actors have portrayed stories and characters about homosexuality in varying degrees of significance within the story.
This year, Manoj Bajpayee will be seen in the role of a homosexual professor in Hansal Mehta’s ‘Aligarh’ based on a true story of discrimination in India
With that in mind, we take a look at Homosexuality in Bollywood with 9 actors who have portrayed a character that is homosexual in a Bollywood film.
Note: The inclusions on this list are actors who have genuinely portrayed a homosexual character in a dramatic film and not actors in drag, or characters pretending to be gay for comic relief.
Sanjay Suri & Purab Kohli in ‘My Brother Nikhil’ (2005)
Based on a true story about a gay Olympic swimmer being treated like a leper after being diagnosed as HIV+, ‘My Brother Nikhil’ initially is about the relationship of the titular character played by Sanjay Suri, and his sister played by Juhi Chawla (hence the title). However, there is an amazingly sweet subplot featuring the love story between the characters of Purab Kohli & Suri that is never mentioned out loud, but depicted through subtle nuances and is implied through out the film. The relationship isn’t demonized or even acknowledged, while featuring many scenes that obviously refer to it. It’s to Director Onir’s credit that he gave us a beautiful love story about two men, completely in the background of another story that had nothing to do with it.
Rahul Bose & Arjun Mathur in ‘I Am’ (2010)
‘I Am’ was another Onir directed film, told in segments through the experiences of various characters. Rahul Bose played an openly gay character, who was lured into an exploitative situation by another young gay man played by Arjun Mathur. The story features the humiliation and turmoil that openly gay men have to suffer through in India, even to this day. It’s a stark look not only at how society condemns homosexuals, but how others exploit them for their own gains with no regard to any basic human decency. Bose and Mathur may also have been the mainstream Indian actors who participated in explicit sexual scenes with another man for a film. Kudos to the actors and director for displaying a story where the intimacy between two men is handled with as much class and sensitivity as heterosexual love scenes, while showcasing the turmoil that most gay men in India face on a regular basis.
Randeep Hooda & Saqib Saleem in ‘Bombay Talkies’ (2013)
Bombay Talkies was another segmented film featuring different stories of certain characters unrelated to one another. Randeep Hooda perfectly plays the role of a closeted gay man living the straight life, lying to everyone including himself, and how it affects his marriage. Of all the stories on this list of openly gay men who are aware of their sexuality, Hooda’s portrayal here may mirror the story of most Indian gay men too afraid to accept themselves from fear of persecution. Hooda portrays the anger and violent reactions to homosexuals that Society almost necessitates a heterosexual man to have, even when it’s aimed at himself and his own feelings. Contrastingly, Saqib Saleem also gives a cool depiction of a confidently out gay guy who’s not only comfortable but also completely unashamed of his sexuality.
Kareena Kapoor-Khan & Shahana Goswami in ‘Heroine’ (2012)
To be clear, Kareena Kapoor-Khan does not play a lesbian character in Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Heroine’. She plays an actress who succumbs to a night of companionship with another woman a while having a professional and personal crisis. The lesbian (or bisexual?) scene is actually handled with much more subtlety and are done more through implied intimacy than explicit content, which is a credit to director Bhandarkar. Although to be fair, the depiction of the character in this movie is less an absolute and more experimentation due to vulnerability, to establish the character’s loneliness, than any gratuitous girl-on-girl scene that is usually shoe-horned into films as a means of heterosexual male fantasies. ‘Heroine’ is also a must watch for all who doubt Kapoor-Khan’s acting skills, as her whiny and pouty portrayals of emotional distress remain consistent regardless of depicting hetero or homosexual relationship drama.
Kayoze Irani in ‘Student Of The Year’ (2012)
While not playing an openly gay character in Karan Johar’s college hit ‘Student Of The Year’, Kayoze Irani played a flamboyant college student meant more as a comic relief supporting character. Despite my disclaimer earlier that only dramatic roles will be featured in this list, Irani makes it because of a heavy handed dramatic speech near the end of the film, mocking it’s own premise and subtly making a point about how college life and overall society treats homosexuals. It’s an amazingly revealing scene and surprising dialogue in a film that is an otherwise heterosexually commercial extravaganza.
Let me know I left anyone out in the comments below.