Space for LGBTQ stories opening up in showbiz

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Shabana Azmi (Photo: Twitter)

Mumbai– With Indian society becoming more empathetic towards the LGBTQ community, the entertainment space is also putting a spotlight on narratives on homosexuality, according to filmmakers Onir, Sridhar Rangayan, Hansal Mehta and actress Shabana Azmi.

Asked if the decriminalization of Article 377 has created more space for films on the LGBTQ community, Rangayan said: “Well, the narratives of this community are surely coming out from the dark and the audience is also interested to go to the theatre and watch the films. However, it has not opened the mind of filmmakers… producers, distributors who decide to invest in such stories.”

Rangayan spoke at a panel discussion at the 20th edition of Ficci FRAMES, a global media and entertainment conclave here on Thursday.

Citing his film “Evening Shadows”, Rangayan said: “When we went to distributors to release the film, many asked us if the film is mainstream enough to release on a large scale. The point is, what is a mainstream film? Is it the one which the audience is ready to celebrate or is it the one which has big stars in it.”

Shabana, who featured in Deepa Mehta’s “Fire”, mentioned the latest web series “Made In Heaven”, in which the male lead is homosexual.

“The homosexual character is completely normalized in the show. It (the sexual orientation) of the character was just another aspect of the character, instead of dwelling on it… So, I would say the space is opening up.

“What happened after the release of ‘Fire’ is that few films attempted to capitalize on it (the topic of homosexuality) and made some sleazy films. Mercifully, none of them did well. Now, I see the space for such a narrative has opened up and it is also because society has changed,” she said.

Considering that the constant talk on gender equality is also trying to include the transgender community into the mainstream, the panelists were asked why the transgender character of Kuku in the web series “Sacred Games” was not performed by a real transgender.

“Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” writer Gazal Dhaliwal, a transwoman, said: “I had two minds about it. When I read a tweet by Varun Grover, the writer of ‘Sacred Games’, he said they had auditioned a lot of transgenders but none of them were capable enough to justify the character as an actor or as a performer.

“While I believe that transgenders could get an equal opportunity because they are a really underprivileged community, I also think that the story should be told well. The performance of the character should be presented well in a film.”

Adding to that, Shabana said: “As an actor, I would say that when you are playing such characters, you have to be a damn good actor. That should be the first consideration. Of course, that should be the touching point where it would be great to find an actor from the LGBTQ community to play such a character. But as a filmmaker, the priority should be finding a great actor to play a role.”

In “Sacred Games”, Kuku was essayed by actress Kubbra Sait.

Onir said one’s sexual orientation must not be a priority in playing a character.

“Acting is an art. But when it comes to mainstream actors playing the role of a homosexual, mostly they are not open about it… I am saying it from experience,” said Onir.

However, “Aligarh” director Hansal Mehta said he didn’t face any problem from the producers and actors.

“I was asked who all were ready to play the roles. When I said Manoj (Manoj Bajpayee) and Raj (Rajkummar Rao), they asked me to go ahead and make the film,” he said.

The film was written by Apurva Asrani, who is openly gay.

Mehta said: “He did not write the story because he is gay. He wrote the story because he is a brilliant writer. He is excellent in his job. So, when I believe in inclusivity, I want that to happen based on merit.” (IANS)

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