Filmmaker Onir recently attended Kashish International Queer Film Festival, and he was left utterly disappointed to see that no one from the industry, who are so called “allies of the community”, came to show support. “None of the OTT programmers, or a studio head…nobody from that world really came to watch the films with the community,” he rues.
What angers Onir more is when these very people try to tell stories about the LGBTQIA+ community from their point of view and have discussions about their rights. “Who are they to sit in those creative spaces and decide what stories about us need to be told, if they can’t support us when needed,” he asks, and continues, “They are all from same gender — men or women and some closeted people — writing this from a very heteronormative view.”
Onir points that most of narratives Bollywood projects follow while telling LGBT stories are about “accepting us, and they forget that queer people’s life is not just about acceptance or shortcomings”.
Citing his recent conversation with an actor, as an example, the 54-year-old shares the perception industry has about the community. “I recently called up an actor for a role and his immediate response was, ‘I have already done a gay character’. Would he say the same about straight characters? Of course not,” says Onir, who finds it problematic when Bollywood easily reduces the life of queer community to their sexuality. “Being gay is just a part of our identity,” asserts the filmmaker known for award-winning films such as My Brother… Nikhil (2005) and I Am (2011).
That’s why, Onir opines that all these talks by the industry about inclusivity are “only a way for the heteronormative world to pat themselves for doing the bare minimum. In reality they’re fighting with their homophobic thoughts”.
However, the filmmaker doesn’t hesitate a bit while calling out the double standards of the film industry, who he feels never forget to ask for the support of the queer community when they need it for their selfish reasons.
“When their films are happening and when they need the community to cheer them and celebrate them, that’s when they remember us. Otherwise, we are forgotten. There’s no one talking about a film made by a queer director or casting done by a queer actor,” he continues, “When there’s an event where the community needs support, there’s total silence from these people. They don’t talk about marriage equality or pride month. These are people from industry who are so-called flag-bearers of change, trying to rewrite the narrative of the LGBTQIA+ world and making efforts for our acceptance.”
Having said that, Onir is quick to state that he, or his community, doesn’t need help to be accepted, in fact, it’s the other way around. “The industry needs help as they are narrow-minded. They basically are homophobic and fighting with their issues and then glorifying their acceptance. All of them can do much more than what they’re doing and if they can’t do it, then at least they can empower people who are really trying to bring in a change,” he concludes.