Now, Gay Activists Frown on ‘Girlfriend’
June 16, 2004
Mumbai, India—Gay 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 fire—for different reasons—from 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
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
“(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
“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
“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
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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