Queer Representation in 21st Century Hindi Cinema

Cinema is not only a means of entertainment, but it is a form of art, like any other. Cinema has the ability to showcase the experience of witnessing human emotions on the screen, contrary to reading a book. It provides a better mode of expression as it is an amalgamation of sound, images, dialogues, music, people and their emotions.

The world of cinema has always been an important medium of communication among the masses. It is also a means of expressing new ideas and thoughts in an impactful manner. Cinema helps the makers and the viewers to express agreement, dissent and concern regarding social issues and norms. And one such topic of discussion can be the representation of queers in the realm of Indian cinema, mainly Hindi cinema.

Queer Stereotyping

Needless to say there has always been stereotyping of homosexual characters in Hindi movies, at least in the early 2000s. The representation of homosexuals has only been in a very light matter, usually in the form of mockery. A gay man would be typically casted as the comical sidekick who would not really have much to offer to the movie’s plot.

The misguided portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community was also limited to casting only gay characters. Hindi movies such as Dostana (2008), Straight (2008), Mastizaade (2016) deals with queer representation, mainly gay portrayal as comic prop to generate laughter among the masses, at the stake of jeopardising queer identities.

Sincere Queer representation

With the passage of time and the growing awareness among the masses it can be noticed that there has been few attempts at a non-comical queer presentation in Hindi cinema. Before mainstream commercial cinema began their queer representation journey, Hindi art cinema portrayed queer characters with much conviction and depth.

Movies like My brother…Nikhil (2005), Margarita with a Straw (2015),  Aligarh (2016) and a few more, have dealt with queer representation with utmost sincerity and sensitivity. And not just limiting their portrayal of queer characters to gay men only.

It can also be noticed that there has been a shift in queer representation from art to commercial cinema as well. With the growing awareness on LGBTQ+, commercial movies began highlighting queer representation as central characters. Such portrayal further helped in queer sensitization and acceptance by the mass public.

Movies such as, Ek Ladki toh Dekha toh Aisa Laga (2019), Subh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020), Chandigarh kare Aashiqi (2021), Badhaai Do (2022) to name a few, has helped the masses through infotainment to understand the daily struggles a queer person has to endure.

OTT and Queer representation

The OTT platform has further broadened the reach to the audience on a day to day basis. Especially in the times of a pandemic when multiplexes were shut, OTT bridged the gap and filled the void. Over the few years the OTT platform has grow immense in term of providing quality content with reference to true representation of the community.

Web projects such as Made in Heaven, (2019), Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (2019), Bombay Begums (2021), Ajeeb Daastaans (2021), explored the queer aspect with utmost maturity and sincerity.

                      The decriminalisation of Section 377 of the IPC in 2018 has further lead  to the opening up of new scope and liberty in displaying queer characters. This really widened the space for new convincing projects to establish and delivery themselves with the truest essence of realism. Hopefully in the coming times Hindi cinema portraits queers stories at a much more sensitive and engaging way.