Indian cinema has hits and misses when it comes to featuring characters and stories based on the LGBT community. Unfortunately, the subject is still taboo to our censor board. Well, that’s a damn shame because we’ve been gifted some really wonderful movies who tackle the topic in a unique manner.
Bollywood Movies with LGBT Representation
1. “Dostana” (2008)
Starring: John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan
Abraham and Bachchan play Kunal and Sameer, two straight men who pretend to be gay so they can live in a beautiful house with a hot roommate, Neha (Chopra). The film may have added a humorous spin on being gay but if you look carefully, the “fake” struggles that Kunal and Sam go through in order to be accepted, especially by Sam’s mother, reflects a true journey. It’s also the first mainstream movie to show an LGBT relationship in a normal, fun light.
2. “Margarita, with a Straw” (2014)
Starring: Kalki Koechlin, Sayani Gupta, Revathi
In this revelation of a movie, Koechlin plays a teenager with cerebral palsy. She moves to New York City with her mother, a traditional woman, to study at NYU. She meets and falls for a blind Pakistani woman but is also attracted to another man, Jared. Through this movie, she discovers her bisexuality while balancing her relationship with her mother. It’s beautifully executed.
3. “Fire” (1996)
Starring: Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi
Deepa Mehta’s film “Fire” was, by all means, way ahead of its time. Das and Azmi’s characters play Radha and Sita, sister-in-laws wed into a loveless home. Their husbands don’t pay attention and they spend their time taking care of their paralyzed mother-in-law. Over time, their bonding and friendship transforms into love. Together, they must make a choice to either live for each other or live by society’s norms.
4. “My Brother… Nikhil” (2005)
Starring: Sanjay Suri, Purab Kohli, Juhi Chawla
Set in Goa between 1986 and 1994 when AIDS and being gay were extremely taboo, this film tackles both the issues heads on. Nikhil (Suri) is a swimming champion but when he’s diagnosed with HIV, he’s kicked off his team and his parents abandon him. His boyfriend Nigel (Kohli) and sister Anamika (Chawla) are the only people who stand by him, even when he’s arrested and isolated for having the disease. It’s a long journey for him to be accepted by his family and the world.
5. “Aligarh” (2016)
Starring: Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkumar Rao
Based on a true story of Ramchandra Siras, gay professor at Aligarh Muslim University, this film was shrouded in controversy and was banned in the city of Aligarh. Siras was suspended when he was caught with a man in his living quarters on campus. It causes a huge uproar with both sides, pro and anti LGBT, fighting for or against him and his removal from his position as faculty head for being gay. Bajpayee’s performance is full of depth.
6. “Fashion” (2008)
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Harsh Chhaya
Sure, Chopra is the main focus of this movie in her role as Meghna Mathur. She goes from being a struggling nobody to a high fashion model over the course of the film. However, it’s the roles of Harsh Chhaya, a gay fashion designer, as does Samir Soni. In the latter’s case, his character has to wed his friend in order to appease his mother and in order to maintain his position in the industry. “Fashion” was eye-opening on many levels.
7. “Mango Souffle” (2002)
Starring: Atul Kulkarni, Rinkle Khanna, Ankur Vikal
One of the first films to emphasize gay relationships, this dramedy made quite the mark for itself. Vikal’s Kamlesh is a gay fashion designer who, after a break up, calls his friends over to make an important announcement. When his sister arrives with her fiance, that’s when things start to get chaotic and secrets are revealed. For its seriousness, “Mango Souffle” manages to churn out great, realistic scenes filled with humor.
These are, of course, an addition to the fabulous stories of indie movies from the West like “Chutney Popcorn,” “East is East,” which are a must-watch.