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7 Bollywood Movies of the 2010s Which Normalized LGBTQ+ Characters

In the Nineties and early 2000s, a queer character in Indian cinema was most likely a caricature. Seeming perverse, cheesy, cross-dressing and pinned to be a laughing stock

Rolling Stone India Jun 23, 2020

A still from 'Angry Indian Goddesses.'

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In 2020 alone, we’ve seen the release of Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar in lead roles as a gay pairing. Considering the pop culture giant that Bollywood is – not just for millions in India but also the diaspora communities – we decided to take a look at just how many strides have been made in the last decade alone. 

Let’s look at seven films in this decade that got the representation right.

Bombay Talkies (2013)

Starring Rani Mukherjee, Randeep Hooda and Saqib Saleem, this story’s twist is quite sensitive towards the LGBTQ+ characters, showing individual growth in character arcs in the narrative. 

Margarita with a Straw (2014)

Kalki Koechlin and Sayani Gupta starrer Margarita With A Straw was directed by Shonali Bose and addressed and normalized two taboos at once. The movie explores same-sex relationships and disabled people’s desire to have a normal sex life. The intersectional take on things is explored through Laila Kapoor’s (Kalki Koechlin) journey of exploring her sexuality and learning about the importance of self-love. The movie was critically acclaimed at a lot of film festivals globally.

Aligarh (2015)

Aligarh is essentially a biographical drama about gay rights but it makes you think beyond about humanism and morality. Based on the life of Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras — a professor at Aligarh Muslim University – the movie directed by Hansal Mehta shines a spotlight on how the private life of an individual becomes national news after a sting operation. It follows how Siras – portrayed brilliantly by Manoj Bajpayee – struggles tragically in conservative India. 

Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)

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Angry Indian Goddesses is a women-centric film about gender issues in Indian society, directed by Pan Nalin. The tone shifts from buddy movie to a deeply troubling visual essay on the travails of women – specifically queer women – in India prior to repealing of section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. 

Kapoor and Sons (2016)

On the surface of things, Kapoor and Sons might have come across as a typical Bollywood family drama, but director and co-writer Shakun Batra gives more than just an ensemble cast offering. This was arguably the first time the Hindi film industry put the spotlight on a normal, seemingly well-adjusted gay character in the lead, played by Fawad Khan and went on to become a box office hit.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (2020)

SMZS was a breakthrough in mainstream Bollywood because the narrative is built around the only two lead characters who are gay. Despite being a comedy, it abstains from parodying gay culture and shuns stereotypical representations of LGBTQ+ characters, with director-writer Hitesh Kewalya adeptly crafting a heartwarming story shot in Varanasi. 

Sheer Qorma (2020)

The next anticipated release in the Indian film world, Sheer Qorma – directed by Faraz Arif Ansari – stars Divya Dutta and Swara Bhaskar in lead roles as two women in love. While Shabana Azmi was cast as Dutta’s mother in the film, what we know about Sheer Qorma is that it explores homosexuality and religious dogma and the possible familial conflicts it causes.

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