Why is homosexuality portrayed in a certain way in many Indian films? If filmmaker Onir is to be believed, there is a connection between this portrayal and the economics of the movie business. In an exclusive chat with ETimes, the director speaks on the changing narrative of Indian cinema, the acceptance of third gender in society and how challenging it is to change mindsets.
When asked about the current scenario and where we stand as a country, Onir shared an incident, “I was working on a love story once, where the two central characters were gay. I wanted someone else to write the screenplay for me. The next day, this screenplay writer called me and said, ‘The idea seems interesting, but will I be able to understand how a gay person thinks or feels?’ I thanked him for telling me this, because I felt evolved. Being a gay person, right from the very beginning, I had no problem in understanding how a non-gay person ate, thought or lived his life. So, what was it that made it so difficult for him? I think, it is the fear of understanding and accepting the present. Changing the mindset of the society at large will take a long time.”
Despite having made internationally acclaimed films, why is it that Onir didn’t find friends in Bollywood pepping him up? “Filmmaking is an expensive business. If you look at the larger picture as how women or the LGBTQIA community is portrayed, it’s all according to what the masses would like. What motivates the Hindi film industry is money. The reason for adding an item number in a film is because it’s popular. I find is extremely offensive and regressive. Similarly, the way the LGBTQIA community is portrayed is a kind of mockery, where you are laughing at them rather than laughing with them. The perception is that it will bring you money.”
Talking about the resistance he had to face while making a film, Onir said, “The films that I wanted to make have always faced resistance. Sometimes, I had to collect money through crowd funding or friends pitching in. The industry usually shies away because they fear that stars won’t easily act and that’s what attracts finance. Secondly, it
is not something that the audience will flock to. In India, cinema is unfortunately still not considered as art. It is not under the ministry of culture, but under ministry of information and broadcasting. The kind of support films get in countries like France and Germany is praiseworthy. Hopefully, things will be better in future. With the digital space opening up, you can now access a film even on your mobile. So the demand, the need of having our own narrative also increases. People will want to hear our stories. It’ll also broaden our scope, where we can showcase what we want to. The entire world can watch our films. I am really hopeful.”