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Please Watch India’s First Unabashed Gay Film – With Your Parents!

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It’s an age of metaphors and allegories and some directors have understood it well enough to use it in their form of storytelling. If Bong Joon Ho used it to show us the ugly face of capitalism’s rat race, Hitesh Kewalya used it to tell us his first-ever story of forbidden love. It can also be easily marked as the most progressive and fearless LGBTQ film of Bollywood. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (SMZS).

Using inspiration from DDLJ‘s most iconic dialogues “Jaa Simran jaa,  jee le apni zindagi,” (Go ahead Simran, go live life on your own terms) Kewalya tells us that DDLJ and every such epic love story need not only have a Raj and a Simran; it can also have a Raj and Mathew and a Simran and a Nazia.

In his own debutante way of replacing Jack and Jill in the age-old nursery poem with Jack and Johnny or using the evergreen Ye Dosti Hum Nahi Todenge from Sholay and hinting that Jai and Veeru could have been lovers too or referring to Arjun Mathur — another actor who boldly played the role of a gay actor in Amazon Prime’s Made In Heaven, Kewalya subtly but brilliantly added his film and the topic in mainstream Bollywood which is single-handedly responsible for creating stereotypes around the LGBTQ community shamelessly – since forever.

Kewalya’s SMZS is definitely not the first film to talk about homosexuality as the lead story frame. Before SMZS, came Sonam Kapoor’s leap-of-faith experiment Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. Yes, SMZS does take the topic from Ek Ladki Ko… a notch further but in a much better and dignified way.

Unlike Ek Ladki Ko…, SMZS doesn’t shy away from showing the two men in love — Kartik Singh (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Aman Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) — in the same frame and in intimate moments. Their love unlike Sweety and Kuhu isn’t platonic enough to just stay limited till the peck on cheeks but is real and passionate and doesn’t care about timing or people.

Yes, they still refrained from taking this love story to the bedroom but the mention of sleeping together does come up. Glad, at least Bollywood dared to reach here!

On the other side of the story is the typical North Indian family with their internal complicated family drama, a big fat wedding, slapstick jokes, irritating cousins and the opposite gender in the cast just for the sake of building that unwanted yet needed love triangle. Throughout the humorous journey of a very small town family coming to terms with their son’s sexuality, Kewalya picks up every thread that was required to knit this complicated tale.

He talks about generation gaps, people living without love, the level of negotiations that goes in our family because, khandan ki izzat (family’s honour) > your child’s happiness, the change of heart that doesn’t happen overnight, the prejudices deeply embedded in us since hundreds of years, the caste divide, the unimportant importance of marriage in our society.

SMZS tells us that homophobia doesn’t see place or education or class or money, it’s in our mind. Unless we decide to get rid of it, there’s no way of it disappearing. A well-educated scientist developing black cauliflowers (metaphors, metaphors, metaphors!) treats homosexuality as a disease while someone who failed their LLB exam understands that people don’t just ‘become’ gay.

While the movie does fall flat and becomes preachy post-intermission in its attempt to touch every base, Khurana’s perfect comic timing keeps us entertained. But in totality, it’s Kumar’s explanation of his hormones oxytocin and dopamine, that controls love universally irrespective of any gender, that saves the day. Along with Kewalya’s decision to teach his audience the highly needed basic education on sexuality and gender with a tinge of humour, of course.

But as hilarious as it is, the movie still has the potential to make a whole lot of us uncomfortable. As I watched the movie in the pretty judgment-free downtown area in Chicago, a middle-aged couple gasped at the smooch scene between Khurana and Kumar, while two girls giggled nervously.

Like Neena Gupta’s character said, the years of prejudice won’t disappear overnight, there’s still a long way to go and movies like SMZS can help us and our previous generations understand, without getting hyper preachy or Ekta Kapoor-level emotional, that if our love doesn’t fit in their definition, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Love is love. Period.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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