Never mind that the recently released Bollywood film Desi Boyz was a dud. Who cared when you had two of the biggest Bollywood studs, John Abraham and Akshay Kumar, playing male strippers. Even more, two studs who, as Suparna Sharma noted in her hilarious Asian Age review, “adore each other and there is enough chemistry between them for you and me to wonder why they don’t just do it and get it over with. They won’t, of course, because they are macho Indian men with families, morals, confused sexuality and would like to continue working in wussy Bollywood.”
The film’s wussiness extended to making them male strippers who didn’t take off their pants. At least with Oops, Deepak Tijori’s 2003 film about male strippers, we got some (zebra-striped) chaddi action. For that matter, both the Desi Boyz stars have given good chaddi in the past – John in Dostana, of course, but Akshay too in a clip from Suhaag (1994) that must be one of the most watched YouTube videos in the gay community here. So why did Desi Boyz get so decorous?
That’s Bollywood for you: lots of promise but rarely delivers. Ever since Dostana came out in 2008 we’ve been waiting for more gay characters in films, depicted with more depth and empathy, and it’s hardly happening. This year we got the usual Bollygays: Madhur Bhandarkar’s standard sneering depiction of a camp, pathetic gay guy (Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji), homo-suggestive college ragging (Hostel), hijra used as joke (Bin Bulaye Baraati, played by Johnny Lever, no less), hijra in a more central role in a film that no one saw (Queens – Destiny of Dance), and a few sensitive but mostly unseen small films (Memories in March, I Am). The only innovation this year, perhaps, was that this bunch was joined by a couple of films with lesbian characters (Turning 30, Life Goes On).
What really showed up this inadequacy was TV. Bollywood avoids taking risks with the excuse that they make films for ‘ordinary people’, but TV goes directly into ordinary people’s homes and this year it gave us some great LGBT coverage. On Bigg Boss, transgender activist Laxmi Tripathi was one of the saner, more dignified inmates. Another transgender named Nikkiey Chawla featured on Emotional Atyachaar. NDTV and CNN-IBN ran deeply sympathetic shows on the parents of LGBT children who petitioned the Supreme Court this year to support the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Even the horrible TV9 expose of gays in Hyderabad was strongly countered by the LGBT community and resulted in an apology and a fine for the channel.
And above all there was Maryada. When this column last looked at this late night Star Plus soap, the gay storyline was still tentative, and looked likely to end in a predictable way (car crash finishes off gay guy). Instead the story has gone from strength to amazing strength, showing Gaurav, the main gay guy, played by Dakssh Ajit Singh, becoming increasingly open, brave and, above all, accepted by many of the other characters. This year Maryada, gave us the breakthrough central, detailed and non-clichéd depiction that mainstream Bollywood still has not.
By Ally Gator on December 23 2011 8.28am