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Queer Cinema In Times Of Section 377: ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ Was The Perfect Start To The New Year

Posted on January 21, 2014 in Culture-Vulture, LGBTQ, Society, Taboos

By Sukriti Roy:

Alright, the lame movie “Yaariyan” might have outdone “Dedh Ishqiya” in terms of the box office collections. But nevertheless, Dedh Ishqiya is definitely on my “must-recommend-it-to-people” list. For those who aren’t aware, “Dedh Ishqiya” is an ode to Ismat Chughtai’s 1941 short story, “Lihaaf”. Ismat Chughtai was one of the most eminent, progressive and feminist Urdu writers of her time.


I asked a few of my friends whether they could decipher the elements of homosexuality and queer in the movie, since the movie does not yell it out. For most of them, digging into a large tub of caramel popcorn was way more important than noticing these things. Funnily, not many of reviews of the movie actually acknowledged the same too, but I am not complaining. Dedh Ishqiya has highlighted it in a very non-sleazy and subtle way. The first movie of 2014 and it dares to mock the Supreme Court judgement passed on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Begum Para’s ( Madhuri Dixit) Nawaab husband indulges in sexual transgressions with men and she herself shares a close bond with her friend Muniya (Huma Qureshi). Their intimacy has been depicted through silhouettes that hug instead of depicting it in a titillating manner.

As this blog effortlessly puts it, “Chughtai’s story dealt with homo-eroticism and lesbianism which created a huge ruckus then. And today, when we are still debating gay rights and article 377 in India, a mainstream Hindi film brings the subject on the big screen with mainstream actors, and connects it so smartly to such an important and controversial literary work, and to its history. And we have no fucking clue!”

Dedh Ishqiya is one of the first films in the history of modern Indian cinema that gives a positive image to a story with themes of homosexuality. A queer cinema in times of Section 377 does mean a lot. It shows how Bollywood is coming of age and speaks the unsaid. It is completely different from a movie like ‘Dostana” which made a mockery of homosexuality, much to the delight of homophobes.

Movies play a major role in influencing the society. Bollywood might be defined by “Masala flicks” but it is high time it started making more of such cult movies in order to bring about a change in people’s perception about LGBT and other important issues plaguing our society.

The homophobes in our country should understand that homosexuality is not a crime and it is definitely not “an influence of the western world”.

Any amount of moral policing is not going to force people to fall in “love” in the so-called normal-in-the-eyes-of-society conventional manner. Abhishek Choubey, the director of “Dedh Ishqiya” probably asks the moral police to stay at ease, just like Chughtai always did.