Admittedly, Indian cinema has not offered audiences a plethora of progressive films about the LGBTQIA+ community. But some Indian films have indeed broken down barriers and started a conversation on the subject, creating greater awareness and hopefully leading to greater acceptance of people from the LGBTQIA+ community.
So here we list a few, which are worth adding to your watch list, especially during Pride month.
Starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, this film by Deepa Mehta is about two sisters-in-law who fall in love with each other. Neglected by their husbands, they not only find solace in each other, but also freedom. You have to watch the movie to see how they navigate the complexities and whether or not they end up together.
In this film by Hansal Mehta, Manoj Bajpayee plays a teacher who is secretly filmed having consensual physical relations with a rickshaw puller. The film then describes how he is socially ostracized, highlighting important points about how society acts as the moral police in private matters. How the public’s treatment of him affects him is something that should do a lot of soul-searching, especially since the film is based on the true story of Professor Ramchandra Siras.
3. Daisy with a straw
This film by Kalki Koechlin tells the story of a teenager with cerebral palsy who falls in love with a visually impaired girl, played by Sayani Gupta. But, she also develops an attraction towards a man, making him question his sexual orientation. A liberating portrait of bisexuality, this film tackles subjects rarely tackled by Indian cinema, which makes it a must.
4. My brother Nikhil
A 2005 film starring Purab Kohli, Sanjay Suri and Juhi Chawla in the lead, My brother Nikhil is based on real-life AIDS activist Dominic D’Souza. Directed by Onir, the film shows the journey of a gay man with AIDS who is arrested and ostracized by people, including his own family. The film shows the prejudices faced by AIDS patients, while showing how social prejudices can ruin the lives of promising young people.
5. Badhaai Do
A recent film starring Bhumi Pednekar and Rajkummar Rao, Badhaai Do depicts the less talked about “lavender wedding”. The story of two gay people who decide to get married shows how homosexuals have to make uncomfortable “compromises” in order to appease conservative members of society and not be discovered. Light but moving, the film shows how people are forced to hide in an illiberal society.
6. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
Starring Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Juhi Chawla and Rajkummar Rao in the lead, this is the story of a young woman from a small town in Punjab. Amid being pressured to consider male marriage prospects, she just realized her feelings for a woman. The film then goes on to show how she has to struggle to get out and how people react to it. While the film can be criticized for not showing many of the happy and sweet parts of the rainbow love story in question, it is an eye opener for conservative members of society who need to be more tolerant.
If you’ve watched more Indian movies with stories from the LGBTQIA+ community at the center of the plot, comment on your recommendations below!
Main picture credit: Junglee Pictures, Vinod Chopra Films, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures