Ayushmann Khurrana, who has carved a niche for himself by doing "hatke" roles with each film will now play a homosexual man named Kartik Singh in Hitesh Kewalya's Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan. The film also stars Jitendra Kumar as Aman Tripathi, Khurrana's love interest, who has been pushed by his family to marry a girl.
What makes Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan different and groundbreaking is its aims to use comedy as a weapon against the country's homophobes. The makers of this film have tried to normalise homosexuality instead of being preachy about it. The film has already created a lot of buzz among the moviegoers.
However, before Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan there have been quite a few films in the Hindi film industry that paved the way for Khurrana's film to take flight. The fact that many of these films were made my Queer filmmakers before the decriminalization of article 377 makes them even more prominent.
Let's have a look at some of our favourite characters before Kartik Singh and Aman Tripathi, who gave the LGBTQIA+ community in India, a fair representation.
Nikhil Kapoor from My Brother... Nikhil (2005)
Starring Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla, Victor Banerjee and Purab Kohli, My Brother... Nikhil by Onir is a film based on the real-life story of Indian AIDS activist Dominic D'Souza. It tracks the life of Nikhil Kapoor, a young swimmer from Goa, whose life takes a turn when he realises he is HIV positive.
The heart-breaking depiction of prejudice and isolation against queer and HIV positive people in the film shook many. My Brother... Nikhil was not only way ahead of its time, but it also represented the real problems faced by members of the queer community. At a decade where films like Dostana and Kal Ho Na Ho used gay men as a punchline, My Brother... Nikhil, in a heartfelt yet memorable way, taught people to be empathetic.
Laila Damle and Khanum from Margarita With a Straw, 2014
Perhaps the only and the most fair representation of bi-sexuality in Indian cinema till date, Margarita With a Straw by Shonali Bose is the story of Laila (Kalki Koechlin), a teen with cerebral palsy who moves to the US and unexpectedly falls in love with Khanum, played by Sayani Gupta, a blind girl from Pakistan. Laila, who has till now had crushes on men suddenly cannot deal with her overwhelming attraction to Khanum, and even goes on to sabotage her relationship in order to "feel normal." Khanum, on the other hand, loves Laila fiercely and is always there for her.
The goosebump-inducing yet hilarious scene where Laila tells her mother (played by Revathi) "Ma, main Bi hoon," only for her mother to answer, "Bai toh main ban gayi hoon is ghar ki," is both intriguing and hilarious. Margarita With a Straw deals with self-love, confusion regarding one's sexuality, coming out, heartbreak, fights with family, and so many other raw and real human emotions.
Dr Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras from Aligarh, 2016
Hansal Mehta's heartbreaking masterpiece Aligarh, a film about the real-life story of professor Ramchandra Siras of Aligarh Muslim University, Uttar Pradesh. Professor Siras, played by Manoj Bajpai, who is wonderful as a man roughed up by a huge secret he has been carrying within him, is ambushed by a local TV channel and is caught on camera having sex with another man. He is then suspended from the university on the account of 'gross misconduct'. He then meets a journalist empathetic to his case and they fight to get his job back. The film sheds light on how humiliating and dangerous it can be, to live differently in a society which does not want to accept you, even when there are laws to protect you.
Rahul Kapoor from Kapoor and Sons, 2016
Shakun Batra's film which deals with the various highs and lows of the three generations of the Kapoor family featured Rahul Kapoor, the overachieving, US-returned, favourite child of the family played by Fawad Khan. His brother Arjun, (Sidharth Malhotra) is jealous of his older brother as many family issues pile up to create a rift between the two. However, Rahul is a gay man who has not come out to his family. And when the secret is out, his own mother cannot see him the same way anymore.
The coming out scene still brings chills to one's spine. When Rahul's mother, played by Ratna Pathak Shah, sees photos of him with another man on his laptop, she cannot believe that her favourite child is leading a life she is ashamed of. On the other hand, Rahul finds out that his mother isn't his closest confidante anymore. Kapoor and Sons is real as it tells the story of thousands of queer people in India who cannot come out to their family or are ostracised when they do so.
Sweety Chaudhary in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, 2019
This latest coming-of-age romantic comedy directed by Shelly Chopra Dhar and written Ghazal Dhaliwal, who is a proud transgender woman, is the story of a closeted lesbian Sweety Chaudhary, who agrees to marry a writer to make her father happy.
Credited to be one of the first films where an A-list Indian celebrity played a queer character, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga has been praised by many about the sensitivity with which the film has dealt the story with. While many wish it could have been more "revolutionary," the role of this film cannot be ignored when it comes to how it started a conversation about the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. It came out months after Section 377 was decriminalised and this film was seen as a modern-day celebration of the queer identity.
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