Touted as India's first gay male romantic comedy, "Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan" ("Be Extra Careful About Marriage") stars popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana as an openly gay man, who battles conservative attitudes to be with his boyfriend. Picture: IANS
Touted as India's first gay male romantic comedy, "Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan" ("Be Extra Careful About Marriage") stars popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana as an openly gay man, who battles conservative attitudes to be with his boyfriend. Picture: IANS

Bollywood's first gay rom-com 'breaks stereotypes'

By Annie Banerji, Thomson Reuters Foundation Time of article published Feb 24, 2020

Share this article:

New Delhi - Eschewing

the typical Bollywood storyline of boy meets girl and struggles

to marry in the face of family opposition, a new film approaches

things differently - with a gay couple.

Touted as India's first gay male romantic comedy, "Shubh

Mangal Zyada Saavdhan" ("Be Extra Careful About Marriage") stars

popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana as an openly gay man, who

battles conservative attitudes to be with his boyfriend.

Packed with romantic scenes including a kiss between the

male leads, the film offers a rare portrait of same-sex love in

a small town in India, which legalised gay sex in 2018.

"The point was not being apologetic about (gay love); not

depicting it as a problem, not take it as a disease," director

Hitesh Kewalya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone,

ahead of the film's release on Friday.

LGBT+ people are rarely represented in Bollywood and in

cameo roles often cast as crude caricatures added for cheap

laughs.

But since India scrapped the ban on gay sex, depictions of

LGBT+ people on television have started to shift from mocking

stereotypes to including gay men on dating shows and drag queens

in a singing competition.

Arthouse films with smaller audiences have sensitively

depicted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender stories such as

"My Brother Nikhil" which tells the story of gay man's struggle

with AIDS and the 2014 drama film "Margarita With A Straw".

Bollywood's first major LGBT+ film was released last year

about a lesbian couple though critics said its same-sex

references were subdued.

"Our industry, unfortunately, has survived on stereotypes

... and I didn't want to do that. That was my biggest

responsibility," said Kewalya about his directorial debut.

"I wanted to break every stereotype using this platform."

Despite fears of a backlash, responses to the film's trailer

- viewed more than 51 million times - have been positive with a

leading Bollywood magazine calling it "hilarious and

game-changing".

The film is backed by some of Bollywood's biggest producers

and 39-year-old Kewalya said it would be the first mainstream

commercial movie to openly explore a same-sex relationship.

He said the Supreme Court's ruling on gay sex had allowed

him to be more upfront with some scenes, including the kiss,

which he feared could be cut by censors.

But homosexuality in the country remains taboo, with

discrimination and abuse against LGBT+ widespread. Outside

cities, it can be worse with threats of violence, brutality and

even death.

Parental acceptance is also a challenge.

This is reflected in the film, which shows one of the

families struggling to come to terms with their son's sexual

orientation and pressuring him to marry a woman.

In one scene, Khurrana's character is seen strutting across

a terrace, wearing a rainbow cape and announcing with a

megaphone that his partner's father suffers from homophobia, "a

disease with no cure".

This is not Kewalya's first attempt at tackling a taboo

topic. In 2017 he wrote "Shubh Mangal Saavdhan" ("Beware of

Marriage"), a film about erectile dysfunction.

"Be Extra Careful About Marriage" draws on his own

experiences at design school, where he first interacted with

LGBT+ people and started to understand their struggles.

Since the release of the trailer in January, Kewalya said he

had received scores of messages from LGBT+ Indians.

One gay person told Kewalya that he would take his parents

to watch the film and then come out to them.

"If such things happen ... that will be the success of the

film more than anything else," the father-of-one said.

\

Thomson Reuters Foundation

Share this article:

Related Articles