Indian gay men do not get Katrina Kaif. Many could argue at tedious length about the competing merits of Rekha, Aishwarya or Vidya Balan. But Katrina escapes them – what got her to where she is? And one of the many small ways in which Kareem Khubchandani’s hilarious YouTube video “Shit Gay Desi Boys Say” really nails it is the unprintable one word with which he dismisses her.
There’s more: “Who do you think are hairier: Mallus, Punjabis or Sindhis?”, “No, Mom, it’s not ‘a gay’, it’s just gay!”, “My first time was with my cousin.”, “I didn’t start shaving my chest till Akshay Kumar did his.”, “If I met a lesbian I would marry her. It would be the perfect situation.”, “Foreskin – gross!” “Two words: Milind. Soman.” Every one of those phrases has been said, or could be, by a certain type of middle-class desi gay guy.
Of course, there’s probably some such gay guy out there who has built a shrine to Katrina, and for whom none of the above statements apply (except the Milind one; if that’s the case then he’s closet straight). But enough of it rings true to have a large part of the gay community howling with laughter – and, even more tellingly, another large part furious about the apparent condescension, insensitivity, and bad image of the community being given to society at large. These folks believe Khubchandani is a “gay NRI who is laughing at our expense.”
Khubchandani himself, who is from Chicago but currently lives in Bangalore where he is researching the role of performance in queer spaces, is startled at the reactions that his video has got, barely a week after being uploaded. “I met some guys who started quoting my words back to me, which was weird!”, he said. He tries to be objective, but admits it’s annoying that a lot of the bitching seems to be coming from “straight-acting guys trying too hard to be ‘normal’. I think most camp queens are really quite happy to laugh at themselves.”
Of course, such reactions should only be expected from a YouTube series that uses stereotypes for humour. It started with “Shit Girls Say”, “Shit Black Girls Say”, “Shit Asian Girls Say”, all performed by guys in drag and fairly juvenile humour. But then, as Thea Lim points out in the Guardian, something interesting happened – Franchesca Ramsey, a black woman comedian made “Shit White Girls Say... to Black Girls”, and a whole series followed which took on the friendly prejudice that people from a particular community get from mostly wellmeaning but clueless outsiders. Khubchandani’s video seems to be made by and for the gay community. (He says he also wants to make a “Shit NRI Gay Guys Say” video, which might balance the charge of not being really desi). He admits that straight people won’t get many references, like the Umrao Jaan song “In Aankhon Ki Masti”, which has long had cult appeal for drag performances. But others are more general, he says, like the fact that in joint families a lot of first sexual experiences are with cousins. And his performance, in different guises, can be generally appreciated for its humour and style. “I think my family is seeing a side of me they aren’t familiar with!” he said.
In a sense this ties in with his larger interest in performances. Gay men get used to leading lives in parallel worlds – with family, straight friends or at work, with gay friends, in the sexual cruising ground of parties and all these involve performances. And sometimes the performances can reveal uncomfortable truths, which Khubchandani says he wanted to point out, for example, about the attitudes towards women: “I think a lot of gay men really aren’t comfortable with lesbians, or even women in general.”
Perhaps it is such criticisms that are making some people uncomfortable, but it could also be just the open confidence that the video shows. Communities that are comfortable with themselves rarely mind stereotypes – for example, Quick Gun Murugun gets little ire from Tamilians, compared with mockeries of various other thin-skinned groups. The gay community’s response to Khubchandani’s video suggests that its confidence is still a workin- progress – not universal but getting there.
Watch Shit Gay Desi Boys Say here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4WDQ2MkJSE
By Ally Gator on March 16 2012 6.32am