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Hindi Films Which Saw Homosexuality In A New Light In 2016

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2016 is going to bid us goodbye very soon. Bollywood is in high spirits as it is capping off the year with a massive hit like “Dangal”, cocking a snook at demonetization imposed a few weeks back. If we keep the most successful and 100 crore entrants of 2016 at bay and take into account movies which succeeded in touching the untouched chords of the audience and breaking some widespread stereotypes, one film which surely finds its rightful place in the list is ‘Aligarh’. The film did not set the box-office on fire. Neither did it join any coveted club. But it made people talk about homosexuality in public domain once again after India’s top Court reinstated the ban on it in 2013, overturning the 2009 decision of Delhi High Court which decriminalised consensual homosexual sex in private.

Before and after the release of widely acclaimed ‘Aligarh’, people re-engaged in conversations about the LGBTQ community which has been forced to live in the closet even after 70 years of independence. Based on a true, heart-wrenching story, a professor’s fight to live with dignity and not feeling ashamed of his sexual inclination and what he engages in within the confines of his room was beautifully written and shown on celluloid by writer Apurva M. Asrani and filmmaker Hansal Mehta respectively.

Yes, it is true that the film did not change the status quo as far as laws governing LGBTQ people in India are concerned, but it did make some section of the society to become far more outspoken in their support for the suppressed community. And that, according to many, was the biggest victory of the film.

We know that while many nations across the globe are striking down bans on same-sex marriage, it may take India, the biggest and greatest democracy in the world, many more years to accept love beyond gender binaries, but Bollywood did perform some much-needed introspection in 2016. Contrary to popular beliefs and stereotypes, now the new gay man in Hindi films is not way too ‘effeminate’. His hands, as engrained in the public perception, are not lumpy and he does not swish around to get anybody’s attention anymore. No one is mocking his mannerisms at workplace and in public. He does not dress up and walk in a manner which most homophobic people find obnoxious and frown upon, as if thinking that a minor community will vitiate the entire humanity on Earth. In fact, the new gay guy in Bollywood is just like any one of us, competent enough to lead and live his life the way he wants to. In ‘Aligarh’, he is a professor at the very prestigious Aligarh Muslim University. Without feeling a pariah, he can fit in as comfortably in a family or group as Fawad Khan did in ‘Kapoor & Sons’. In the very beautiful film ‘Dear Dad’, he is courageous enough to come out to his son on a road trip.

This year has indeed seen a positive change in the depiction of LGBTQ characters in films. So before the year wraps us, let us have a look at some most notable Hindi films which saw homosexuals and homosexuality in a new light in 2016.


As already mentioned, “Aligarh” is a film which will claim the first spot if a list of ‘Best Films on the Depiction of Homosexuality in Hindi Films’ is ever made. Every scene, every shot and every frame of the film engage and move you so much that you cannot afford to keep your eyes off the screen. Manoj Bajpayee so convincingly brings forth the pain and pang of a professor thrown out of his university on the basis of his sexual orientation that, after a few minutes into the film, you too start feeling the anguish of his grief risen out of society’s vexatious attitude. Kudos to the writer that he did not stick to the clichéd depiction of gays in popular media and portrayed his protagonist as normal and natural. Manoj Bajpayee is one of the finest actors of Bollywood and his performance in the film proved the same all over again.

Kapoor & Sons

When the trailer of “Kapoor & Sons” came out in the beginning of the year and the audience was introduced to a dysfunctional family of Kapoors, most of the girls (and some boys too) went weak in the knees after getting a glimpse of the epitome of handsomeness Fawad Khan on screen. Everyone had assumed that it was going to be a triangle among the characters of Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra and Fawad Khan. But no one would have ever thought that Fawad actually had a man in his life instead of a woman. This could happen because there was not a single stereotype of homosexuality attached to his character, because the writer did not take the conventional route of depicting a gay man and hence reinforce the idea of homosexuality as implied and demonstrated in every mainstream representation. He showed his character like anyone else. Director Shakun Batra garnered a lot of praise for the characterization.

Dear Dad

It must have been very difficult for a father to tell his son about his sexuality. To break the news, he embarks on an impromptu road trip to the boarding school of his teenage son. But the secret comes tumbling out rather abruptly for the son as he overhears his closeted dad revealing his sexuality to his ill grandfather who can neither move nor talk. Though the film ends on a happy note with the son accepting his father the way he is, “Dear Dad” was praised for touching on the theme of alternative sexuality in an intelligent way. The coming of age story did not show its gay protagonist as a man roaming around to attain sexual encounters. Arvind Swamy plays the character with dignity. The makers did not force him to exhibit any of the personality trait Bollywood has been accused of associating with gays. Rather he was shown as a suave and dignified man.


The film was not centred around the topic of alternative sexuality. Rather it was all about brawn and beating of goons. But, taking everyone by surprise, Akshay Kumar did a cameo in it wherein he played a gay man. Though his character was not totally clean of stereotypes, it did not smack of caricaturish treatment from any angle.

As a society, we need a massive overhaul. Only then we will be able to dismiss the media image of LGBTQ people and look at issues like sexuality with a modern viewpoint. It is a welcome change that at least the biggest film producing industry on the globe has started seeing the LGBTQ community with a new lens. They say that cinema is a mirror of society. If that is true, then this mirror has now started showing a somewhat clear picture. But a long path is yet to be trodden.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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