Updated: Jun 25, 2019
"Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code:
Unnatural offences: Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine."
Last fall, India’s Supreme Court declared Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional, essentially decriminalizing homosexual acts. This was overturned more than 150 years after the British Raj instituted the rule, even though ancient Indians long embraced the LGBTQ community; several Hindu gods and goddesses transcend gender, cross-dress or are born of same-sex parents. Even the Kama Sutra describes homosexuality.
But as often is the case in India, if you want to popularize a topic, either bring it to Bollywood or to a cricket match. It's the two things Indians are bound to watch. So this Pride month, we're spotlighting the five movies (including a web series!) that have put LGBTQ characters in the spotlight. These characters, especially in Indian television and films aren't quite as abundant – but that is changing.
Here are five that are changing the face of South Asians on the big and small screens:
Made in Heaven
This Amazon Video web series follows the lives of two Delhi wedding planners, one of whom is gay and an LGBTQ activist. The series has been praised for taking a gay male character, often flamboyantly stereotypical particularly in Indian movies, and making him a complex, dynamic character who happens to be gay.
A Monsoon Date
This short film, set in the seemingly romantic rainy season as the title suggests (although if you’ve been to Mumbai in the rain, it is very much not romantic, trust me) follows a Bombayite who is on her way to meet her boyfriend of one month to tell him she is a transgender person.
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga
This Hindi film, starring Anil Kapoor and real-life daughter Sonam Kapoor, is the first-ever Bollywood film to feature a lesbian relationship. Sonam Kapoor stars as a closeted lesbian who is grappling with coming out to her super traditional Punjabi parents and homophobic brother.
Kapoor & Sons
LGBTQ issues aren’t necessarily the whole plot of this movie, as is the case in some of the others, but instead woven into the issues of a dysfunctional family. In the Hindi film, two brothers return to their hometown after their grandfather suffers a heart attack. During their stay, they learn a lot about each other, and one of them comes out of the closet, revealing that his committed relationship in faraway London is actually with a man.
This film tells the true story of a Marathi professor in Uttar Pradesh who is suspended for immorality after a local TV crew break into his home and film his same-sex relationship. It was released just three years ago, before any other film on this list, and was already paving the way for the others.
Avani Nadkarni is a former journalist who currently works in tech PR and is forever navigating the tricky balance of trying to raise her child in the U.S. while teaching him about his Indian and Sri Lankan roots.