LGBTQIA+ Relationships Have Made it to Bollywood!

Let’s face it. Romantic comedies are just about as traditional as you could get. Just mention this term and the thought of Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler probably springs to mind. It is much more challenging to find good LGBTQIA+ romcoms, though a small number of cool examples have been released across the globe  over the past decade. Just a few good choices to watch out for are The Wedding Banquet by Ang Lee, The Happiest Season by Clea DuVall, and Single All the Way by Michael Mayer. Bollywood has also evolved considerably in this sense and over the past few decades, there has been great progress in the number and quality of LGBTQIA+ romantic comedies.

Breaking New Ground

LGBTQIA+ representation is not completely new to Indian filmmaking, of course. Films from the 90s and 00s began presenting LBGTQIA+ focused characters and topics, though many would say that they failed to capture the depth and nuances of the relationships they portrayed. One of the earliest examples of such a film is Fire – Deepa Mehta’s soulful story about two sisters-in-law who find love and sexual fulfillment in each other after they are neglected by their husbands. Although critics raved over the film, it received considerable backlash from traditional Hindu groups, who felt it went against traditional core values.

LGBTQIA+ from a More Profound Perspective

During the 2000s, Indian films reflected the sensitive approach to LGBTQIA+ films, with dramas such as My Brother Nikhil and Margarita with a Straw embracing inclusivity and acceptance profoundly. Margarita with a Straw was a particularly well-received film that focused on a teen with cerebral palsy who falls in love with a blind activist. Dramas abounded in a decade that also saw Hollywood finally take LGBTQIA+ films out of the indie/alternative genre and into blockbuster territory. Call Me By Your Name, which saw Timothée Chalamet star in his breakthrough role, presented the subject of first love through an almost genderless perspective. Set in the Italian countryside, it presented the perils of giving oneself completely to another, without the characters experiencing prejudice or discrimination from anyone surrounding them. It was almost as if the existence of various sexual orientations were assumed, with the acceptance these would have in an ideal world. It was as though both Hollywood and Bollywood awoke to the demand for sensitive, heartfelt LGBTQIA+ films that embraced universal subjects.

Why Was Romantic Comedy the Last Genre to Follow Suit?

In 2020, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan saw audiences go gaga over a comedy featuring two gay leads. The action begins when Kartik and Aman (a gay couple who live together) attend a wedding. Little does Aman know that his mother and father plan to marry him off to a family friend’s daughter. The end of the film, which takes its main characters through quite a crazy ride, features the landmark decision by the Supreme Court, which decriminalized homosexuality. This decision provided impetus and motivation for filmmakers to create LGBTQIA+ friendly films in all genres—including the previously ‘ultra-straight’ romantic comedy genre. 

Romantic comedies are a popular genre across the globe for one reason—they delve into a favorite topic (love) and give it a funny (and often highly sentimental) spin. Bollywood has reflected Hollywood’s interest in creating films with queer storylines and characters from the community. Gay relationships, once presented as tragic and fraught with challenges, are now viewed from a lighter perspective as well. These romcoms show that while members of the community still have daily obstacles, they also have plenty to smile about.