The portrayal of LGBT characters in Bollywood movies is not something new. But the characters are often so stereotyped and sidelined that they get lost in the stream of typical commercial Bollywood. Nevertheless, some effort is better than no effort.
A good cinema challenges society to deal with its conservative ideology and social stigmas. It is not like movies there are no powerful movies on LGBT issues, the problem is that they are not enough. Until we get more LGBT movies in Bollywood that celebrates the pride, dignity and sexuality of every human being, let us have a look at some landmark movies in India on this topic:
1. Fire (1996)
Deepa Mehta’s Fire is the story of two women, who are abandoned by their husbands, and how they find love and solace in each other. Released in 1996, it was definitely a path-breaking film. 25 years ago, there were barely any movies on the same-sex relationship. This is one of the best Bollywood LGBTQ movies.
2. Kapoor & Sons (2016)
Kapoor & Sons starts as a predictable family drama until it is not. It’s a typical dysfunctional Indian household. The Pakistani heartthrob Fawad Khan plays a convincing gay character in the film. The film is a complete roller-coaster ride along with the shock value.
3. Aligarh (2015)
Aligarh is probably one of the best Bollywood LGBT movies of recent times. The characters played by Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao are commendable. It is a slow drama that will keep you engaged till the end. The portrayal of Indian homophobic society is done in a sensitive manner keeping issues like privacy, dignity, minority, loneliness etc in mind.
4. Dostana (2008)
Dostana was a hit, not only because the chemistry between Abhishek Bachhan and John Abraham was amazing even without Priyanka Chopra. But also because this film doesn’t play on the stereotypical portrayal of gay characters in comedy movies. Instead, it introduces the most outrageous scenes in contemporary Hindi cinema and gets away with it through comedy. The movie is a spoof on how society looks at alternate sexuality.
5. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020)
The love story of Aman Tripathy (Jitendra Kumar) and Kartik Singh (Ayushmann Khurranna) goes into trouble when the couple goes to Allahabad to seek the permission of Aman’s parents. Neena Gupta as Aman’s mother and Gajraj Rao as his father are cherry on the top. This an iconic movie on LGBT issues such as homophobia.
6. Dedh Ishqiya (2014)
Abhishek Chaubey paid tribute to Ismat Chughtayi’s Lihaaf to portray a gay relationship between two women in this comic drama. The film is set against a backdrop of decaying feudal culture. The relationship between Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit) and her maid Muniya (Huma Qureshi) is much more than it appears in this black comedy.
7. Margarita With A Straw (2014)
Margarita With A Straw is the story of a young woman with cerebral palsy, who embarks on a journey of self-discovery. The lesbian romance between Kalki Koechlin and Sayani Gupta is not weird or coy but rather a tender relationship between two individuals.
8. Bombay Talkies (2013)
Bombay Talkies is a 2013 anthology film by celebrated filmmakers of Bollywood. The first short film, ‘Ajeeb Daastaan’ by Karan Johar is a sensitive portrayal of gay characters. The actors who are playing gay characters do not act gay in a stereotypical manner. This film doesn’t turn gay characters into caricatures and this is where it touches the heart of the audience.
9. My Brother Nikhil (2005)
The film was avant-garde for many reasons. It talked about the stigma about AIDS and homosexuality in a single film. It was one of the first movies to spread awareness about AIDS in India. The film stars Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla and Purab Kohli in lead roles.
These are one of the iconic LGBT movies in Indian cinema. Most of these films are available to watch on Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon and other OTT platforms. All of these movies on LGBT issues have a different approach, but the message is the same, to celebrate pride, diversity, individuality and sexuality.