Last edited: June 20, 2004

Now, Gay Activists Frown on ‘Girlfriend’

Sify, June 16, 2004

Mumbai, IndiaGay activists in India are up in arms over what they call the negative portrayal of lesbianism in a new film, “Girlfriend”, which has also drawn firefor different reasonsfrom the Shiv Sena.

“‘Girlfriend’ reinforces all the negative stereotypes about lesbian and bisexual women,” said Chatura, of the Organised Lesbian Alliance for Visibility and Action (OLAVA).

“Not only is it a cheap and titillation-oriented film masquerading as one that’s liberal, but it portrays the minority community in a negative light,” said Chatura.

“It has repercussions for people whose parents are trying to come to terms with their sexuality and gives bosses a tool with which to harass us,” she said.

“Girlfriend”, starring Isha Koppikar and Amrita Arora, is about two women who are close friends, sleep on the same bed and have once shared a sexual encounter. When one of them falls in love with a man, the other is consumed by jealousy and assumes the role of the jilted lover.

Critics say the film portrays lesbians as being unnatural and assumes that their sexual preferences are the result of psychological problems.

Leading homosexual activist Ashok Row Kavi said: “We have a major problem with director Karan Razdan for demonising lesbians. The film takes our sexual identities and makes a joke of them,” he said.

An open letter to the director, published in Mid-Day, lamented that the film would dent decades of campaigns by gay rights activists.

“(The) film contains the worst possible misnomers about same sex attraction. More than two decades of work done by gay and lesbian activist groups will suffer thanks to this homophobic film,” said the letter, written by Tejal Shah.

Sena activists, claiming homosexuality was an affront to Indian culture, disrupted shows of the film in Mumbai and the holy city of Varanasi, but gay rights campaigners made it clear they were not making common cause.

“We’re not going to allow the Sena to do this to us. They didn’t bother when the same director’s previous film, ‘Hawas’ which was also all about lust and sex, was released, so why is it that this film is being targeted?” asked Row Kavi.

An analyst said Indian films lack sensitivity over issues such as homosexuality. “Subjects like lesbianism need sensitive and mature handling, for which the context should be sensible,” said analyst Indu Mirani.

“Unfortunately, here there was nothing of the sort. It was just a whole heap of titillation. The message the film gave out was that a homosexual relationship is bad as compared to a heterosexual one, which is a skewed morality.”

Bollywood has a long way to go before learning to tackle sensitive and risque themes with maturity, she suggested.

“Because currently writers and directors are only looking at these films as a way of being ‘different’ and making quick money,” Mirani said.

“For a film industry that has barely moved away from the boy-meets-girl, boy-gets-girl formula, maturity is a long way off.”

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