They don’t walk, talk or live differently. But the LGBTQ community was given a different treatment in showbiz for long.
The representation is changing as there’s larger acceptance of gay characters and stories. But there are still miles to go.
Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, lauded for telling the story of a Danish painter finding his sexual identity in “The Danish Girl”, feels showbiz is going through an “important change”, but it can’t happen “quick enough”.
“The job of cinema is to represent human lives and for so many years LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community have not had their story told…. This is just the tip of the iceberg at the moment,” Redmayne told IANS.
British actor Ncuti Gatwa, who essays a gay character in Netflix show “Sex Education”, is happy that stories are veering away from the struggle to come terms with one’s sexuality.
Taking his role of Eric in the show as an example, Gatwa explained: “He is openly gay to his peers and his family and they all accept this. I found it interesting that his story didn’t focus on his ‘coming out’ or his trying to find his sexuality.”
In Hollywood, films like “Carol”, “Moonlight”, “Brokeback Mountain”, “God’s Own Country”, “Call Me By Your Name”, “Boy Erased” and “Love, Simon” stitch the gap. But as per a GLAAD report, the number of major studio movies with LGBT characters fell from 23 in 2016 to 14 in 2017. The number in 2018 is also expected to fall short of expectations.
Indian-American Nik Dodani, who has never veiled his own sexuality, said it is exciting to see the different shades of the queer community being reflected on-screen, although he would love to see more of it.
“The Danish Girl” author David Ebershoff said he continues to tell queer stories because “those in positions of privilege, must speak out on behalf of those who face discrimination and hatred every day”.
In Bollywood, there was a time when gay characters were mocked at, stereotyped or used as comic relief with big entertainers like “Dostana”, “Bol Bachchan”, “Veere Di Wedding” and “Partner” leading the list of examples.
But the trend is shifting.
If there is a story of a professor who was fired for having an affair with a man in Manoj Bajpayee’s “Aligarh”, there is Pakistani actor Fawad Khan’s portrayal of a man opening about his sexual orientation to his family and finding acceptance in “Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)”.
In fact, Sonam Kapoor’s lesbian drama “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga” is not only being touted as brave, but path-breaking too.
Not to forget films like “Fire”, “My Brother.Nikhil”, “Margarita with a Straw”, “Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.” or sub-plots in “Fashion”, “Heroine” and “Dishoom”.
Regina Cassandra, who plays Sonam’s love interest in “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga”, pointed out that Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised homosexuality, came as a big push for all such stories.
“Evening Shadows” director Sridhar Rangayan believes that bringing LGBT stories to mainstream theatres for the larger audience to see the films with their families will remove prejudices and pave way for an equal society.
Director Onir said: “It’s wonderful to have a sensitive representation… but we are yet to see if that is the trend and have many more.”
Keshav Suri and Ayesha Kapoor, who have been fighting for the rights of homosexuals, say cinema plays an important role in making or breaking an image.
Suri added: “Stereotypes around gays have existed in all spheres and industries… I will like to say that there has been a conscious effort to change the depiction.”