Cultural production on LGBT issues in India is a good indicator of how pathetic the LGBT world and its politics is here. From appallingly written novels to unendurable theater productions, from unwatchable films to patronising music videos. What is even more unfortunate is that a lot of this is produced and directed by gay people. Visibility on LGBT issues increases by the day and almost makes one nostalgic for the time there was none. Better to have no visibility than the kind we are assaulted with these days.
Whether it is Mani Shankar Iyer’s Magizhvan or the crude, awful films made by a certain Ambrish Bhatia whom I was (and still am) hoping is a hologram and not an actual person. The most offensive thing about these films is that the directors are clearly under the delusion that they are doing great good to the LGBT community and producing cultural material that is supportive of and of great use to the LGBT community.
The director of Magizhvan clearly thinks he’s done a great yeoman service to the community. But if you actually look at the politics of the film, it is deeply homophobic, familial and authoritarian. The two protagonists have not had sex and are proud of it. They are waiting for the permission of their parents to have sex! The Muslim boyfriend (and somehow his Muslimness is not an issue for the Hindu, high caste boy’s family which is deeply improbable) spits in horror at his boyfriend’s father’s heated imagination that produces an image of a gay man “licking five drops of sperm (sic)” and like a chaste Shahrukh Khan in DDLJ speaks proudly of how he could have had sex on a college tour with the man’s son but didn’t because he was waiting for familial permission.
Gay love is portrayed as sexless and in the corniest heterosexual terms: as pure, as emotional and as sensory excitement only akin to parental lover for a child. Gay love is true love because it does not involve sex outside the frame of the acceptance by familial authority. It is the burden of the boys to convince the parents that their love is true, like Kamal Hassan and Rati Agnihotri in Ek Duje Ke Liye. There’s a sexless and lustless earnestness to the boys’ love. Gay people become acceptable only when there is no shimmer of a suspicion that there’s anything going on between the same sexes in bed.
The implicit politics of the film then is not only internalised homophobia from the gay protagonists but also the upholding of the heteronormative family. The ideology of heteronormativity with its attendant categories of monogamy, exclusivity and obsession and the ideology of the unequal and authoritarian structure of the family are not questioned at all. Only acceptance into both domains is asked for.
Despite the fact that this is a 2015 film, it is as though there is no LGBT community around, no NGOs to go to or to send parents to for counsel, no friends that the two love-lorn lovers have. The psychiatrist is benign and his psychiatric gyaan is that being gay is just like liking a different colour! It is not the most helpful or convincing explanation to get a parent to deal with his son’s homosexuality.
But, most of all, the so-called great and abiding love between the two boys is utterly shallow and hollow. One accuses the other of “proposing” (sic) and sending him down this path, asks him to leave the house repeatedly, asks him to forget about him, tells him that his parents are more important to him than his lover, agrees to marry and call the relationship off, asks him to not to ruin his life but to also marry. The other shows some fake anger but agrees that his lover marrying is the best thing, he wants to see him married, he wants to see his children, agrees to the whole thing being called off. It is one thing to show that homosexuality is deeply embedded in the heterosexual but another to show a gay couple in the twenty-first century who wants their families to accept their love but are so full of homophobia themselves and so utterly unconvinced by their own pure, great love for each other.
The unadulterated praise for the film in the comments section under the YouTube video of the film show that under the garb of acceptance and forward-thinking views, we remain the most homophobic society. Homophilia is the new homophobia! Long live homophobia!