Urban middle class India. Girl meets girl. They fall in love. And you have The ‘Other’ Love Story, the first Indian lesbian web series. I watched episode one on the day of its release, August 27, 2016. And I have to say that this is an idea whose time has definitely come.
The first episode, The Meeting, firmly establishes the ordinariness of the neighbourhood, the girls’ homes and the mundanity of lives lived among family. But Aadya is living her life in quiet desperation. Feeling stifled at home, she walks to the temple (I did feel a certain sense of irony there), her thoughts filled with a deep sense of alienation and not belonging.
The ragged tumble of emotions she experiences is one almost every person in the LGBT community has felt acutely at some point in their lives. Or perhaps, anyone who has ever felt like the “other”. There is a certain rawness and authenticity in the script which makes the story immediately relatable to the audience.
Aachal meets Aadya by chance in a galli in the neighbourhood while waiting with her ill brother at a clinic. In their interaction, Aachal is bold where Aadya is awkwardly shy and reticent. There is a sweet innocence as we see them interact with each other in person and over the phone. I half expected Aadya to give her cell phone number, instead of a landline number, when Aachal asks for her phone number. But this is a love story based in the late 1990s in then-Bangalore. It just happens to be between two women at a time when same-sex relationships were still deeply in the closet.
In India, where conducting a heterosexual romance can be a real trial, LGBT relationships are near impossible. As I write this, there is a news report of two young women in a lesbian relationship in Mumbai who attempted to commit suicide, because their families had found out about their relationship. One is successful in doing so, the other fails in her attempt.
Family, patriarchy and politics combine to create unbearable circumstances where one is severely punished for falling in love with the wrong sex.
With Section 377 still hanging like a spectre over the LGBT community in India, spaces need to be created in the media for stories like this to be told. Way back in 2004, the iconic TV series ‘The L Word” had begun. In it, a group of six lesbian and bisexual women in Los Angeles unapologetically, unabashedly and openly have relationships with other women.
It was hugely empowering for women in the closet to watch a world, albeit fictional, where you could love without fear. It’s taken 8 years for us in India, to make a show about lesbian relationships in India. And no, I don’t consider sensationalist films – if you can call them that – such as Girlfriend. Although, Fire is worth mentioning.
This web series is a brave step in the right direction, lending a voice to people struggling with their sexual identity. This story isn’t about the “other”. It’s about you and me and falling in love, irrespective of gender.
You can watch the first episode here: