Mumbai: Barring Deepa Mehta’s 1996 film “Fire”, which featured Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, average Indian cine goers could hardly recall a film on same-sex relationship of two women, until the poster of the upcoming film “Sheer Qorma” was unveiled last week. The poster shows two hijab-clad women — played by Divya Dutta and Swara Bhaskar — as a couple.
The poster was launched at the recent India Film Project, an annual two-day event in Mumbai that encourages cinematic content creation. At the launch, the maker and actors of “Sheer Qorma” said sexual orientation should not necessarily be held up as the bar while narrating an authentic story on LGBTQ+ community.
Since Divya and Swara do not belong to the LGBTQ+ community, the question arose if they could really portray their homosexual characters with authenticity.
“There is no right or wrong way of finding authenticity while creating any character, be it an LGBTQ+ or a regular character. So in a way, unless you felt heartbreak how will you write about heartbreak in an authentic way? Similarly, in a society where one goes through a very different kind of experience being a queer, one has to understand that every journey is very intimate. One cannot really interview few people from the community and create a character. The nuance would be missed,” the film’s director Faraz Arif Ansari said.
“Having said that, it (sexuality of a storyteller) cannot be a limitation. Yes, it is true that when a storyteller from the community makes a film, we can get a more authentic experience. But that is not because of the gender identity of the storyteller, because one must not forget, a story has no gender,” Ansari added.
A director who has sensitively and sensibly explored sexuality in varied shades through efforts such as “My Brother… Nikhil”, “Bas Ek Pal”, “I Am”, and “Shab” is Onir, incidentally one of India’s few filmmakers who are openly gay. Onir does not agree a filmmaker’s sexuality affects his exploration of the subject matter at hand.
“I do not think the sexual orientation of a storyteller or an actor can define the authenticity of any character that he/she creates. We have an example of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ by Ang Lee, so I do not think that sexual orientation could be a bar,” said Onir.
There are several examples of films where homosexual characters have been presented with utmost dignity by directors who do not adhere to such orientation in real life.
On the other hand, a National award-winning filmmaker like the late Rituparno Ghosh, who was self-confessedly queer, made films such as “Dahan”, “Asukh”, “Dosar”, and “The Last Lear”, which poignantly explored man-woman relationships.
Said Divya, about ‘‘Shreer Qorma”: “There is no norm in which one has to project if he/she is a LGBTQ+ person in daily life, or behave in a certain way just because of their sexual orientation. As a performer, all I had to do was to portray my character in ‘Sheer Qorma’ was to add my sensibility to the beautiful script I was offered.”
Kubbra Sait, who played a transgender in the first season of the web series “Sacred Games” said: “I am often asked how I could play a transgender, being female. Nobody asked Anurag (Kashyap, one of the directors of the show) how he could direct the scene, and why there was no director from the community hired to do so. The fact is, it is all about the exposure one has and how empathetic the individual is.”
“There was no momnent of awkwardness or shame for me to play a transgender, because, for me, it was about playing another human being. My life’s experiences made me more accepting,” Kubbra pointed out.
She added: “When the casting call for the role went out, everyone was welcome for audition — male, female and transgender actors, too. I know that the makers waited for six months to get the right actor to perform the role but they really did not get anyone. And people from the community were uncomfortable to portray their reality ecause it takes self-acceptance.”
With time, Bollywood is surely changing. More actors in the industry are coming forward to be part of same-sex love stories.
This year Sonam Kapoor appeared in the film “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga”, which revolves around a lesbian romance. Ayushmann Khurrana plays a gay character in “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”. Akshay Kumar, who essayed a gay cameo in “Dhishoom”, is gearing up to play a transgender woman in the upcoming “Laxmmi Bomb”.
By Arundhuti Banerjee