Imagine, two Haryanvi boys grappling with their sexuality in a world that believes that heterosexuality is a norm. For the LGBTIQ community, this is a happenstance and not something that is out of the usual. Now imagine, the mother of the Haryanvi boy who is gay. Now imagine, watching all this on Indian television.
Way back in 2011, Star Plus took a major leap in programming by airing a show that had two male protagonists who happened to be gay. Never before had there been anything like this ever seen on Indian television. The serial was called Maryada. It used to air in prime slots on Star plus. It was January 17, 2011 that love came out of the closet on Indian television. One of the homosexual men who was married to a woman in the show, came out to his in-laws as gay on this day. That started an era. But it didn’t last too long.
Before that, we have had gay-like people in Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi. Remember Maddy, the gay fashion designer?
We all know about Bigg Boss and the gay contestants there. Mostly shown as over the top, until my friend, who I fondly refer to as my gay child – Sushant Divgikar reclaimed his position as a gay man, who was effeminate and didn’t take any shit about his sexuality lying down.
Now, coming back to Maryada. I am proud to share that my friend, and huge, huge LGBTIQ supporter, Mona Ambegaonkar played the evil mother Roshani Devi in Maryada. She is as evil in real life too. The difference is that she is only evil to homophobes. She reads out the play Ek Madhav Baug, which is a story of a mother who discovers her son is gay with absolute élan.
Then, there were a few movies that were refused screening for being gay, but it was absolutely okay to show gay people as funny creatures in the subplot. Recently, Aligarh was telecast in &Pictures. The film is focused on the real life incident of homophobia in the life of a professor in Aligarh Muslim University. The censor board censored words like “homosexual” and “gair mard”, which is ridiculous because it is a film about homosexuality and about the “mards”.
Arnab from Times Now, has always stood up for gay rights. We may love to hate that person, but his commitment to the cause of LGBTIQ rights cannot be challenged. He has never been unbiased. He had his position clear. He stood for equality of the LGBTIQ community. This belief of mine was cemented when he accepted to be a part of the Likho Awards for Media by the LGBTIQ advocacy organisation – The Humsafar Trust.
Rajdeep Sardesai from India Today and Tamanna Inamdar from CNBC Awaaz have also always stood up for the cause. That’s the story of English and some hindi news channels. Fiction has always been a difficult ground to permeate.
In times like these when homophobia lurks at us, where Pahlaj Nihalani bans gay kisses from Befikre, a brave web series like All About Section 377 found unanimous support from the NDTV team. All About Section 377 is a situational comedy based on same-sex relationships. The first episode was aired on December 9 on NDTV Prime.
Elated, I quickly called up Amit Khanna, the director of the web series and also one of the actors. I asked him if the show was censored heavily and pat came the reply “not in terms of story lines , some cuss words like ch!t were censored…”. That I would imagine would anyways be censored. I asked him if there was any thing more than that which was censored, and that incited laughter in him “Yes, yes, a dildo had to be blurred”.
In fact, Amit revealed that the most memorable was an interview by Akruti from the NDTV team. “Akruti spoke so well to us… she said she doesn’t look at this as some niche fancy cause, it is human right and about the right to live.”
Indeed, Barkha Dutt has been slapped notices, when she began her Buck Stops Here show “What’s illegal about love, my lordships” with a disclaimer that “this is strictly, and I need to disclose my prejudice at the beginning of the programme, an advocacy show, a protest show at the verdict today.”
So, while we are the first to hold Modi accountable for everything negative, for breeding the culture of intolerance, we should give it to NDTV Prime and Amit for rising up for equality in this climate of intolerance. And hail Modi and his team of regressive people, for not creating drama on this one.