Bollywood has attempted to atone for years of on-screen distortion of the LGBTQ+ community with films like Margarita With A Straw, Kapoor and Sons, Aligarh, Badhaai Ho, and a few others. However, films that are openly phobic and degrading to the community are unfortunately more popular among the wider populace.
Of all, given the star power and large budgets associated with such ventures, they have to be the ones to reach a broader audience.
Without a doubt, Bollywood owes a massive apology to the entire community for not providing a valuable perspective but also contributing to the misinformation.
1. Queer characters being used for comic relief and are reduced to their sexuality solely.
We have finally seen a compassionate and realistic representation of queer characters in recent years, particularly since the arrival of OTT platforms. However, Bollywood’s previous transgressions, such as the inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters for cheap laughs, will never be pardoned.
Pakhi Sharma, better known as Bobby Darling, was cast in several roles in films like Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa, Kyaa Kool Hai Hum, and Apna Sapna Money Money. But none of them served to properly portray the community, and instead humiliated it with distasteful comedy.
2. For cross-dressing at whatever chance they got, without a good reason.
Guys dressing dressed as women is a recurring theme in most comedy films, and it’s supposed to be hilarious. That may elicit laughs in the theatres at times, but the overtly insulting acts must end. We’ve seen it happen on screen in films like Humshakals and Golmaal, and honestly, no one needs to see it anymore.
3. Although there have been numerous digs at the community that we could name, Jay Mehra deserves his own apology.
I’m very convinced the world would be a better place if we hadn’t found out about this joke in Fardeen Khan starrer Prem Aggan. “Tumhara naam ‘Jay Mehra nahi, Gay Mehra hona chahiye,” a man who appeared to be a touch effeminate was instructed, despite the fact that the comment had no bearing on the plot of the film.
4. Worst depiction of the transgender community and use of it as bait to gain an audience.
The trans-inclusive character in Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui got to tell their own story on screen, but Bollywood couldn’t get away from the cis-men saviour complex. While trans characters were frequently presented as antagonists, this perception of the community contributed to transphobia for a great many years.
Loved #GangubaiKathiawadiTrailer and it look very promising but then again another CIS male is playing a trans role. I know Vijay Raj will do it good but this is a pattern in Bollywood from a long time and maybe it’s high time to change it.#VijayRaj #GangubaiKathiawadi pic.twitter.com/DkbR2nRDcz— 𝕂𝕒𝕦𝕤𝕙𝕒𝕝 (@optimistclysure) February 4, 2022
In fact, Housefull 4, a film released three years ago, didn’t even flinch when it depicted a sequence that was blatantly transphobic.
5. For films like Dostana, which under the name of representation degraded the community.
Obviously, the film starring John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan hasn’t aged well. When it comes to the LGBTQ+ genre, mainstream Bollywood has made sluggish progress, but misrepresenting and mocking it is even worse if one can’t bring up a matter gently.
6. Even now, there is almost no visibility of lesbians on the screen.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is the closest mainstream Bollywood has come to a decent film about lesbian romance. However, the film only skimmed the surface of the topic and came out as a half-hearted attempt. Prior to then, all we had seen on the screen was the fetishization of love between two women.
7. While a segment of the community found a spot on the screen, asexual people are still unacknowledged.
Bollywood appears to be unable to comprehend romance or love without physical connection or sexual urges. There will be a barrier in understanding asexuality and asexual folks’ challenges unless asexual characters are presented and normalised through movies or shows.
We are pleased that the LGBTQ+ community is, slowly but steadily, receiving the respect and representation it deserves. However, Bollywood still needs to turn the pages of its own past to figure out what needs to be stopped right now.