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Queer Voice Shines In “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”

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After a long time, mainstream Bollywood has started bringing out movies that talk about the highly disputed issue of alternative sexuality. There have been many movies featuring this issue, but the films rarely got recognition in the industry. From the first gay film, Bomgay to the National Award-winning film, Margarita with a Straw, leading stars of Bollywood have contributed in raising a voice against the discriminatory portrayal of the sexes as well as sexuality in the industry.

One such recent and commendable attempt is Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar starrer film Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan by Hitesh Kewalya. The movie is a journey of two young homosexual lovers—Aman and Kartik, who are convincing Aman’s family to accept his sexuality. The tale told in a hilarious way tries to destroy the binaries and construct an idea of creating love icons for gay people. The movie was a huge success, gaining praise for the great acting, comic dialogues and an immaculate plot line for Bollywood fans.

The creators of the movie have done an in-depth research of the lives of gay people—not that it is any different, but the hardships and the methods used to cope with them are very relevant. The movie is like a week worth of LGBTQ studies lectures combined together in two and a half hours. The references, the comebacks and the dialogues are superbly and carefully written, avoiding most of the stereotyping elements that are naturally found in the Bollywood movies.

Ayushmann Khurrana in the movie

The movie begins with the narrative of two men running on the Allahabad station platform amidst the colorful crowd of thousands of baraatis boarding trains. The scene freezes, with the end of each of the characters’ narrative of their life as defined in a single word—bhaagna (running away from), at the most romantic scene of the century—the Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge train boarding scene of couple. Many such romantic scenes and plots from Bollywood is used in the movie to let the audience understand that there are no gender, sexes and colors when it comes to love.

Many people may not know, but Amitabh Bachchan is quite famous in the queer community, especially the gay community. AB senior’s movies marked the beginning of the two-hero films. Right from Sholay, there are multiple movies with many different actors starring with Amitabh as his closest friend. Sholay is the most iconic of such films and the song Yeh Dosti even has a scene were the two guys chose each other over a female. And thus, Kartik uses this song for his nuptials. Also, the retro times had very revolting characters, who would struggle against their family to make their love successful.

Still from the movie

The homosexual relationship between Aman and Kartik is very romantically portrayed with the kissing in the train to holding each other’s back no matter what. At times, people may try to assign the binaries of being feminine and masculine to any of the two. But again the stereotyping is kept at bay with both characters displaying both the traits in their action.

For instance, Kartik may seem feminine with his sweet voice and dramas, but the weaker one emotionally is Aman as he is unable to see Kartik in pain; vice versa, Kartik emerges masculine when he takes blows from Aman’s dad for being gay.

Gay bashing is common in most parts of the world. Imagine people being beaten and killed for loving people of the same sex. Where is humanity hiding?

Still from the movie

Coming to the marriage part (which is referred to in the title itself), the movie tries to create a ground for homosexual marriages. After the epic verdict of the Supreme Court in September 2018, the queer community has the permission to love people of their same sex, but India has a long way to go in accepting queer marriages.

Thus, the movie does not show the marriage of Kartik and Aman. There is a scene in the last part of the movie, but before they could finish the seven vows ritual, they are interrupted—first by Aman’s father, and then by the police. That also brings us to the question of Goggle’s wedding. Why did it play a significant part in the whole set up?

The wedding made Kartik realize that he would love to have Aman as his husband and Aman’s family as his in-laws. It also made Aman understand that marriage is not just something that he can manage, but a relationship that demands respect and support which only Kartik could provide him. For the character of the excited bride to be, Goggle, marriage has a very different meaning. It is supposed to provide her with everything—attention, importance, love and respect, which is what she has been denied all her life. Even at her own wedding, she is the most neglected person.

All the female characters in the movie, like any Indian family, appear to be involved only in bickering for household chores. But still they manage to come out stronger than their male counterparts. For instance, Goggle never blames anyone else for her fate, even when it is her own uncle, because of whom she lost her eye. In the end, she gets married to herself, as nobody is worth her charms.

Lastly, the symbol of kali gobi (black cauliflower) is very important. It is used to portray the hegemonic and the orthodox thinking of people. What better than cauliflower to symbolize brains of homophobic people!

Kali gobi is the homophobia that resides in people’s heart, and they think they are right in enforcing it on others. But in the end, it is a rotten vegetable, not safe to be eaten. It has to be burnt from our systems with acceptance. Nobody can control how and what others may feel, and it is no one’s business to control who should be loved by whom.

There are some parts in the movie which may not be very agreeable. The pain and emotions are not purged, but kept light by the comic reliefs. It may not have justified or even come close to what lakhs of people are suffering every day. But the step they took was a brave one. The movie may not be perfect, but has now set a milestone in queer cinema with its intimate and bold scenes and dialogues.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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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