Getting real

ST correspondent
Thursday, 25 April 2019

From Sweety to Umang Singh, Indian entertainment content has finally started portraying authentic and relatable LGBTQ characters

The Indian entertainment landscape is evolving dynamically when it comes to featuring biopics, stories, characters based on the LGBTQ+ community. Moving away from caricatured stereotypes, Bollywood has now begun portraying issues related to sexuality in a much more nuanced and sensitive manner. Here are five characters from on screen stories that have depicted the struggles of being different from the “regular”. 

Sweety (Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga)
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga has been directed by Shelly Chopra and written by Gazal Dhaliwal. Sonam Kapoor’s portrayal of a woman struggling with her sexuality signifies a turning point for LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream Bollywood films. In the movie, Sonam plays a closeted lesbian dealing with her conservative family. Moreover, her character broaches the conversations about new-age romances that are now challenging entrenched prejudices of Indian society. This movie is now ready to reach a larger set of audience as it will be aired on April 28, 11 am on Sony MAX.

Laila (Margarita with a Straw)
Margarita with a Straw is a film about Laila, a young Indian bisexual woman who has cerebral palsy. This coming of age film offers commentary and insight about how society feels that disabled people are different but they do have a sexual desire and look for love. What makes this film even more endearing is that it refuses to let the audience feel sorry for a disabled girl or disgusted with her sexual choices. Instead, it showcases Laila as a human being who has dreams, hopes and also makes mistakes, just like everyone else. Watch it on Netflix.

Umang Singh from Four More Shots Please!  
This digital series showcases four friends who are each other’s ‘shoulder to lean on’ while coping up with everything that life throws at them — love, sex, ambition, societal norms and everything in between. One of these four key characters is Umang Singh, essayed by Bani J, a bisexual woman who moves to Mumbai to get away from a claustrophobic closeted existence in Punjab. Her goal is simple – to find work as a gym instructor and to enjoy life. The show takes us on a beautiful journey where Umang not only finds love but also has to fight hard to stand up against closeted mind-sets to fulfill her dreams. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

Karan (Made in Heaven) 
Made in Heaven has been commended for illustrating the societal issues pertaining to class, continuing social evils and the treatment of queer characters, against the backdrop of big fat Indian weddings. One of the central characters in the series, Karan (played by Arjun Mathur), owner of the wedding planning firm, is shown to struggle with his own sexuality. While he is completely at ease with being gay in his own little insular world, he is still closeted around his family and his landlord. The show depicts how various events force him to accept his truth and come out as a strong voice in the LGBTQ+ community’s struggle for acceptance. Watch it on Amazon Prime.

Kukoo (Sacred Games)
Sacred Games is a rivetting thriller on Mumbai’s world of crime. The story unfolds around the lives of cops and criminals in the city’s grimy underworld. An interesting character in the show is that of Kukoo, played by Kubra Sait, who is introduced to the audience as a mesmerising cabaret singer. In what can be called, one of the most visceral scenes in the show, it is revealed that Kukoo is a trans-woman and while the whole world laughs at her behind her back, the lead character finds beauty in her and holds her close to his heart – calling her his lucky charm. Watch the series on Netflix.

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