The new soup advertisement featuring Karan Johar is making waves all around and for good reasons. The advertisement has touched every right point. Neither is it intensely preaching, nor it is offensive towards the sexual minorities. Gauri Shinde, the maker of the advertisement, has made sure to make it look like a normal relationship that is often viewed as abnormal as per “society”. The advertisement has made the entry of discussion about LGBTQ into every household, and that is the biggest takeaway.
Many Bollywood movies are made on same-sex relationships, but they never get commercial success or become mainstream—rather most of them become controversial. When Meera Nair made Fire, all hell broke loose. I remember that as a child, to even to talk about it was a taboo. Then came movies like My Brother Nikhil, which touched upon the issue of same-sex relationships and AIDS. The movie was a masterpiece in handling both the issues with utmost care. But it was never considered a mainstream movie for the reason that it was not a big-budget movie with big stars.
Bollywood has lately come out with the topic of LGBTQ in various forms. Mainstream commercial movies like Kapoor & Sons and Ek Ladki ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga are a few of them which have touched the issue of same-sex relationship maturely, and the forthcoming films, Shubh Mangal Jyada Savdhan and Sheer Qorma also look promising. This is not only refreshing but also surprising given how Bollywood dealt with the issue of a same-sex relationship in the past. Considering this industry has made utterly disgusting movies like Girlfriend, which was based on a lesbian relationship.
Bollywood has come a long way from the dark days. This is Bollywood redeeming itself from the sin it committed against the LGBTQ community. Bollywood has always stereotyped gay and transgender characters and used them for comic relief in movies. The typical hand gestures and characters behaving like nymphomaniacs were common scenes and so was stereotyping gay people with odd voices, snapping of fingers and using phrases such as “whatever” every time. We don’t do that in that frequency. Remember the scene from Golmaal 2 where Tushar Kapoor is trying to catch Shreyas Talpade, and a gay guy in pink jeans and T-shirt is molesting Talpade? That scene was put in by Rohit Shetty for comic relief, but it was gross. Bollywood is full of movies with such distasteful scenes.
Today, Karan Johar is in the process of becoming a voice of LGBTQ in India, but this is the same filmmaker who made Dostana where a same-sex relationship is ridiculed and made fun of. And gay characters are mocked upon, especially the character of Boman Irani who appeared for a short time to be ridiculed for comic relief. In Kal Ho Na Ho, Karan Johar again made fun of same-sex relationship. Remember the “Kanta Ben” scene where the house help misunderstands the relationship between Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan? Here:
Hollywood has a long list of movies which made people understand the pain of this community. Bollywood, on the other hand, has damaged the community by wrongly portraying them and using words like dheela, meetha, and all that crap. We can never imagine Bollywood making a movie like Boys Don’t Cry. We don’t expect it, but at least give the community a proper representation! If you cannot represent the community with all care and caution, then please don’t ridicule them.
Jared Leto was cast in Dallas Buyers Club as a transgender—a man portraying the role of a transgender woman. When it comes to India, one of the most powerful and popular roles of a transgender character in the history of the Indian entertainment industry went to a girl. This is about Kubra Sait playing the character of Cukoo in Scared Games. They could have cast a transgender person or at least a male actor to make it look more authentic, but Bollywood being Bollywood just chickened out.
The sinful list of Bollywood is too long and endless. However, with changing times and changing minds, Bollywood, also, is showing some courage and understanding towards the LGBTQ community. Bollywood is whitewashing its sin of the past, and this is a healthy change. At this time when the Supreme Court has decriminalized Section 377 and the real fight for respect and recognition from society for the sexual minorities has begun, the soup advertisement featuring Karan Johar is a welcome step. We need to talk about the issue. It has been long enough that we remained silent and suffered. Bollywood can be the way forward, and hopes are high now that characters representing the LGBTQ community will never be ridiculed in Indian cinema like they have been in the past so many years.
And, hey Bollywood! Kindly remember we don’t wear pink all the time.