Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kitne aadmi gay?

When a stand up comic gives an interview, half of what he says is not to be taken seriously. Still, I think there is a point to ponder when Suresh Menon says to HT Cafe:

"I call him (Sajid Khan) everyday. In fact, there was a time when our friendship almost traumatised my wife... it nearly destroyed our marriage. Thankfully, better sense prevailed and my wife realised I was not what she thought."

Ah. A few short years ago, no one would have thought. Hanging around with guy friends was a perfectly normal, 'guy thing' to do. I mean guys even walked hand in hand without any embarassment.

But things have changed. And it's all thanks to Bollywood. Every other month we have a film in which perfectly 'normal' men turns out to be gay. No wonder the wives are.. worried.

It started with Page 3. Then came Honeymoon Travels where not one but two leading chracters are discovered to be gay. And the recent Life in a Metro... Poor Konkona, we hope she isn't third time unlucky!

A friend wondered out loud whether there really are that many gays - closet and otherwise - in India. He ticked off his friends and acquaintance list and said, "Well, I don't seem to know any. Maybe one... but I am not sure."

But the fact that you and I don't have gay friends - or friends who've admitted to being gay - doesn't mean anything, I countered. There is a whole world out there we know little of.

That's what I felt when I first read 'Shantaram' two years ago. I grew up just 2 kms away from the bylanes of Colaba where Shantaram and co strutted their stuff. And I inhabited a different universe. Antiseptic, middle class, falling asleep to Vividh Bharti radio.

And there, not far away, a world full of sex, drugs, cloak and dagger. Rock and roll, swing and swagger.

The few times you stood for a bus near Regal, late at night, you'd catch a glimpse of this world. But we never knew the intimate details...

And then there was 'Maximum City'. Again, a book which took you into the sleazy underbelly of the city. The underworld, the bar dancers, the transvestites. The people who exist in the same spaces as us but remain invisible in the light of day.

So it is with the gay community. Partly because no major public figure has so far had the guts to come out and declare, "I am gay." And neither has the media decided to go no-holds-barred on this one.

There are plenty of rumours of course. As Vir Sanghvi wrote in a recent column in Mint:

We are at the stage that Hollywood was in the 1950s and the 1960s, when the gay actors (Rock Hudson, Tyrone Power, etc.) all pretended to be straight for public consumption even though the film community knew them as queens. And famous gay directors (George Cukor, John Schlesinger, etc.) rarely talked about their homosexuality.

And speaking of rumours, here's a major wink-wink-nudge-nudge from Sanghvi...

Years ago, just after Abdul Kalam had become President,I interviewed Shobhaa De on TV. She argued that Bollywood was going more and more gay, pointed to that famous Filmfare awards function where Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan did a gay routine to promote Kal Ho Naa Ho, and argued that homosexuality in India extended to public life and went all the way to the top (not difficult to guess who she meant).

Weirdly enough, all the conversation is about gay men. So I guess we women can talk to our girl friends everyday, twice a day. Go partying, shopping, and even out of town together. Without the men in our life getting all flustered.

That is, until Karan Johar decides to make a love quadrangle where Rani and Preity ditch their beaus at the mandap to elope with each other. But worry not... methinks that may take a few more years!


  1. Anonymous2:13 AM

    Abdul Kalam?... lol.... no disrespect 2 him though!

  2. Lol! Loved the end!

    I think the gay fear is quite over rated anyways ... so people are gay .. or not .. as long you know what side of the fence you're on how is it any different for you?!

  3. HI,


  4. all societies go thru these changes, & now as the world is getting increasingly integrated, the values & cultures are also becoming more global in nature. the way you try to capture this change is quite good.

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  5. We are from a different generation but I know at least three openly gay people and most of my women friends say they're bisexual and many have actually had sexual encounters with women (all these in India). I think it's quite fashionable to be bisexual if you're studying english literature. Whether you openly admit these things depends on whether you think the person you're talking to will freak out.

    By the way, Fire came before Page 3. And of course, the average Indian could not handle it.

  6. I was thinking the same thoughts .. just didn't get time to key them down but the fact cries out loud that there are not that many gays around us, may be with enough hullabaloo and acceptance around there may be people who would revisit their sexuality and being gay becomes hip

  7. Definition of Marriage in a dictionary is a legal union between a man and a woman. Today a marriage can be between same sexes (No slight intended). Tomorrow it could be between different species??? If such a scene becomes a reality, how do we define DEFINITION !!!

    Recently one celebrity asked another: "how do you want to be remembered after death". he said: "who cares". If you look deep into that answer, it has a deeper meaning. But there are certain areas, which needs practical application of mind than only theoretical. MOST of us don't like; a father having sex with his daughter or a mother having sex with her son or a brother and sister into lovemaking or a man in 50s enjoying sex with a 9 yr old girl or a woman allowing her cat to lick her p***y or a man screwing his bitch (dog) on the road. In all the above cited examples, the demonstration of love thru physical affection is by mutual consent (as per them and so it is justified !!!). LOL. hahaha

  8. What do you expect maam...

    see you are living in a society where you are not supposed to talk about sex... forget gays or lesbians how many straight people come out openly saying that they are sleeping with somebody...

    on the other hand, in the west they don't try to hide the obvious... so it makes sense for the gays there to come out in open...
    why exactly would you expect gays in india to declare their gayness or whatever... beyond me...

    btw... please do away with your word verification... or atleast consider reducing the number of letters there..

  9. there may exist may homos around us bt wats d need 2 bitch about dat
    definitely d media is hyping it bt on d other hand its positive in a sense dat d avg indian middle class family is becoming more open 2 such king o things...though a slower one bt d change is coming

  10. karan johar may be gay... so he used in script of Kal ho na ho... even he behaves like a girl...

  11. interesting post...I would be interested in knowing if there are any studies or books on indian gay men. Do you know of any?

  12. it's overrated, nothing else. it's a popular theme in bollywood coz it has shock value as well as the advantage of not having rightists damaging theatres screening your movie. do the same with lesbians and the reaction won't quite be the same.
    i think the bollywood treatment promotes stereotypes of the wrong kind, and the sooner the gay community speaks out against the way they are being portrayed in movies, the better.

  13. @ Prickles...
    Well, if u urself are a gay, then kindly ignore the rest of this comment. Otherwise, how exactly do u think the so-called gay community shud be portrayed. Wen u rnt even aware of how things r, at their end, how can u evn accuse of hem getting portrayed wrongly?

    @ Rashmi
    U knw, i do have a few friends who happen to be gay and altho tey rnt comfy abt statin it to every other person they meet on the road, as far as "close frens" r concerned, it's okay. N well, the only standing instruction they have is to try keep their romantic emotions off us, else all's well. At least I personally have neva felt that heir sexual preference had ever affected their relationships with their close aids!

  14. Hahaha some imagination you got there, rashmi:) I for one will never be watching that movie!

  15. @shayon:
    what makes you think that a non-gay person can not be aware of the mindset of a gay person?
    fyi, gay men are not excessively feminine [if they happen to be, they are just succumbing to the stereotype], are not always designers, and gay women are not always the tomboyish type.

  16. Rashmi, are you sure you have the right Sajid Khan link? I think you meant Sajid Khan the comic (brother of Farah Khan), right?

  17. Anonymous11:43 PM

    What a person does inside his or her bedroom is the personal choice and freedom,its wrong to judge once sexuality,according to me live and let others live ther share of gay or straigh life.Period.

  18. Nice post. Indian has same percentage of people as everywhere else in the world. Lot of Indian gay people get married and have a hidden gay life. But things are changing expecially in cities like Mumbai and Delhi . Most of my staight friends from Mumbai doesnt care when I come out to them. But South Indians are still not educated . Expecially being a Keralite ,it was very difficult for me to be out in the family and relatives. People dont seem to understand.

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  19. The only thing worse than the evil glitz of Hollywood is when Indians voodoo it up!

    Roberta Shugs

  20. I may be mistaken but I feel because our society tries to ignore the very existence of sexuality (in general), people may not even realize that they themselves could have a sexuality that does not fit the heterosexual norm that they see around them everywhere.
    Those that do realize it would definitely be afraid to acknowledge it publicly knowing people would not understand them.
    On the plus side, at least India doesn't have out and evident homophobia, right?

  21. Interesting because I also read "Shantaram" before "Maximum City". But if there is any underworld in Madras, it never reared it's racey and intriguing head. Too bad.
    It seemed like there just wasn't a dialog about gay people in India. I wanted to investigate but upon asking my editor for story fodder, he only said (quote) "You'll have to go to dangerous parts of the city where they work prostitution". Um, surely not all non-straight people in India take to the streets to sell sex for money? They had their own community far-removed from the rest of society and rarely interacted with other people (i.e. eunuchs, socialized only with other eunuchs).
    Then again, I was hard-pressed to see any kind of affection regardless of sexual orientation, let alone a same-sex couple.
    But there is progress in opening up sexual attitudes: I report that a friend spotted two people passionately making out on a sofa in Barista. Times are a changin'. Give it another 20 years or so before two guys do this and it doesn't cause severe whiplash of every single passerby.
    I like freedom, especially something as basic as expressing affection in public without fear of scrutiny- no matter what sex your partner happens to be.

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