The Central Board of Film Certification has once again come in the eye of the storm when it refused to issue a certificate to Malayalam movie Ka BodyScapes stating that the movie glorifies gay and homosexual relationship while making derogatory remarks about women. Ka Bodyscapes is about three young people in Calicut and their struggle to find space and happiness in a conservative Indian society. The film is questionable in the sense it projects Hinduism in a derogatory manner and shows a female Muslim character masturbating. The movie has been directed by Jayan Cherian.

Homosexuality under IPC Section 377 is a criminal offence and is punishable by law. In 2009 a panel of judges decriminalized homosexuality but in 2014 Indian High court re-criminalized same-sex activity. The penalty for this offence can be up to life imprisonment. LGBT rights are legal in many Western countries including USA and all European Union countries. The thing to note here is that homosexuality is not a foreign concept in India. In ancient India, many instances of homosexuality can be found in Hindu and Vedic texts. There are several stories depicting love between same sexes. Kamasutra the ancient Indian treatise on love talks about feelings for same sexes. Transsexuals like Lord Vishnu as Mohini and Lord Shiva as Ardhanarishwara are venerated and worshipped. The clause of penalizing sexuality in India was introduced during British Raj in India and it was on Lord Macaulay’s advice as a Law Member in the Governor General’s Council in 1860 that made it a criminal offence.

Indian cinema has time and again tried to broach the subject of homosexuality sometimes in a positive light sometimes in a demeaning and ridiculing way. Movies like Dostana and Student of the Year have ridiculed the concept. So here we have a list of movies which depicted homosexuality in a positive light and gave the individuals credibility and respect.

1. Fire

Fire is a romantic drama film written and directed by Deepa Mehta and starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in pivotal roles. Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Jaaved Jaafri also star in the movie. It was the first installment in Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy; it was followed by Earth (released in 1998) and Water (released in 2005). The film is loosely based in Ismat Chughtai’s 1942 story Lihaaf. It was one of the foremost Indian Bollywood mainstream films to depict and explicitly show homosexuality. It faced a lot of backlash from certain groups and eventually triggered a dialogue on homosexuality. The film follows two sisters-in-law Radha (Shabana Azmi) and Sita (Nandita Das) who find solace in each other’s arms after being shunned by their respective husbands.

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2. My Brother Nikhil

My Brother Nikhil is based on the life of Dominic D’Souza who was an Indian AIDS activist and who founded People Positive an AIDS assistance organization. The film stars Sanjay Suri as Nikhil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla as Anamika Kapoor who plays his sister. The film was well received and critically acclaimed. The story follows Nikhil who is a state all round swimming champion. When he gets diagnosed with HIV he is removed from the swimming team and is arrested for being HIV positive. He is kept in isolation by law as the Goa Public Health Act allowed the government to isolate HIV positive people. Despite being left alone and thrown out of his parents’ house Nikhil is supported by his sister and boyfriend Nigel (played by Purab Kohli). The film stars Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla, Victor Bannerjee, Lilette Dubey and Purab Kohli. The movie was directed by Onir.

Watch the trailer below:

3. Fashion

Fashion was directed by Madhur Bhandarkar and featured Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Mugda Godse, Samir Soni and Arjan Bajwa in leading roles. It is based on an aspiring fashion model and her struggles and tribulations to achieve her dreams. Samir Soni plays a gay fashion designer in the film who gets married to his college friend Mugda Godse a small time model after succumbing to parental and societal pressure. Fashion had two gay characters in the movie and both had a pivotal role in the movie but Samir Soni’s character should be taken into account because he was shown as a successful fashion designer who gets bogged down by the society and eventually gets married to put a stop to the rumours.

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4. Kapoor and Sons

Kapoor and Sons is the latest entrant in this esteem list of depicting LGBT relationships in good light without ridiculing it or making a trash out of the individuals involved. Kapoor and Sons featured Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, Rishi Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah in lead roles. Fawad Khan plays a gay character in the film. He comes across as sensitive and as normal as the next person in the movie (something that is applause-worthy since Indian film directors always had a problem depicting the homosexual character as a normal, regular guy. They were almost always were caricatured and made fun of). However, his sexual orientation is kept under wraps in the beinning in the movie and is exposed only when skeletons come tumbling out of the closet of all the family members concerned.

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5. Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd.

Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd was produced by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani and marked the debut of Reema Kagti as a director. The film had an ensemble cast including Boman Irani, Shabana Azmi, Sandhya Mridul, Ameesha Patel, Abhay Deol, Minissha Lamba, ranvir Shorey, Dia Mirza, Kay Kay Menon, Raima Sen and Arjun Rampal. The story revolves around six couples who are on their honeymoon with the Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd bus and their trials and tribulations during the four day journey in Goa. The homosexual character in this movie is Sandhya Mridul’s husband played by Vikram Chatwal and in some ways Ameesha Patels’ husband played by Karan Khanna. Vikram Chatwal is a closeted homosexual who gets married due to parental pressures. Karan Khanna on the other hand develops romantic feelings for Vikram Chatwal and does not know that he has homosexual tendencies.

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6. Mango Soufflé

Mango Soufflé was released in 2002 and is directed by Mahesh Dattani. The film stars Atul Kulkarni and Rinke Khanna. It was touted as the first gay male film from India and was adapted from English play On a Muggy Night in Mumbai by the director himself Mahesh Dattani. The movie follows a gay fashion designer Kamlesh (Ankul Vikal) who calls friends over for dinner to make a special announcement. But his sister (Rinke Khanna) appears at the party with her fiance (Atul Kulkarni) a man with a secret.

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7. Angry Indian Goddesses

Angry Indian Goddesses is a 2015 film directed by Pan Nalin. It stars Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sarah-Jane Dias, Anushka Manchanda, Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande, and Pavleen Gujral with Adil Hussain. Angry Indian Goddesses has an unusual sub-plot of lesbian marriage where Sarah Jane-Dias and Tannishtha Chatterjee are the lesbian couple. Under IPC Section 377 same-sex marriages in India are prohibited and punishable under law. The women gather to celebrate an impromptu bachelorette but are subsequently harassed by a group of men. Later Amrit Maghera’s character Jo is found dead on the beach apparently raped. The women find evidence that the group of men who harassed them earlier are the perpetrators of the horrendous crime but are not taken seriously by the Police and aspersions are cast upon them for their behavior as women. The film was well received and gained much support from women audience.

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8. Girlfriend

Girlfriend was released in 2004 and was written and directed by Karan Razdan. It explores and hints at lesbian relationship. The film features Ishaa Koppikar, Amrita Arora and Aashish Chaudhary. The film focuses on Ishaa Koppikar’s obsessive relationship with Amrita Arora especially after the latter starts dating Aashish Chaudhary.
9. Margarita, with a Straw
Margarita with a Straw features Kalki Koechlin in one of her career defining role. She plays Laila a teenager with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair and struggles performing the normal activities in her life. She falls in love with a blind girl of Pakistani Bangladeshi descent. During the course of the movie Kalki Koechlin’s character figures out that she is bisexual and is attracted to both men and women. The film stars Revathy, Sayani Gupta, and William Moseley along with Kalki Koechlin. The film garnered much appreciation and critical acclaim at International film festivals.

Watch the International trailer here:

10. Aligarh

Aligarh is a biographical drama directed by Hansal Mehta and written by Apurva Asrani. It stars Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao in the lead roles. Manoj Bajpayee won huge critical acclaim for his portrayal of Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras and won the Filmfare Critics Award for Best Actor. The movie is set in the city of Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. It is the true story of Dr Srinivas Ramchandra Siras (played by manoj Bajpayee), a professor of Marathi and the head of the Classical Modern Indian Languages Faculty at the famous Aligarh Muslim University. Dr. Srinivas Ramchandra Siras was suspended on the grounds of morality and was also sacked from the position of Reader and Chair of Modern Indian Languages because of his homosexuality. He was found at his house by some miscreants sharing intimate moments with a rickshaw-puller and was later subjected to persecution, humiliation and unfair treatment by the University and other citizens for being gay.

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11. Desh Ishqiya

Dedh Ishqiya is a black comedy directed by Abhishek Chaubey. It stars Madhuri Dixit, Huma Qureshi, Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin Shah in lead roles. It is a sequel to Ishqiya. The homosexual angle in this movie is nicely played and does not come to the forefront but has an undercurrent. Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit) is in love with her maid Muniya (played by Huma Qureshi) and the entire movie is a comedy with clever twists and turns with the sole goal of the two female protagonists to lead their life together.

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12. I AM

I AM is directed by Onir is the first gay film to win a National Award and is based on real-life stories. It is an anthology consisting of four films which shares the common theme of fear. There are four stories but the characters are interwoven with each other. “Abhimanyu” is based on child abuse, “Omar” on gay rights, “Megha” is about Kashmiri Pandits and “Afia” deals with sperm donation. The film stars Nandita Das, Rahul Bose, Juhi Chawla, Manisha Koirala and Sanjay Suri in lead roles. The film was financed by donations from more than 400 different people around the world. Many of them donated through social networking sites like Facebook.

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13. Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyon

Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyon is a bilingual film directed by Sanjay Sharma and written by his brother Kapil Sharma. Kapil Sharma acted as the lead in the film too. It features the first gay kiss in Indian cinema between Yuvraaj Parashar and Kapil Sharma. The film was well received at Queer film festivals. A sequel has also been made starring Zeenat Amaan, Kapil Sharma and Yuvraaj Parashar.

Watch trailer below:

The Bollywood fraternity has been trying to free itself from the societal shackles but the Indian society still needs to go a long way in accepting homosexual relationships.