100 Years of Indian Cinema: Homosexuals and the third gender on celluloid

Published: February 27, 2013

New Delhi: When sexual revolution swept through the West in the 1960s after the advent of the birth control pill, some of the effects of the change found slanted reflections in popular culture. But for the ripples to hit the Indian shores, where cinema was still bound by Victorian puritanism, it took another decade. In all of cinema’s history, true representation of alternate sexuality happened only as recently as the 70s driven by the worldwide gay rights movement.

While Hollywood cast Bobby Watson as a gay fashion designer named Paisley as early as 1931 in the film ‘Manhattan Parade’ and Marlene Dietrich kissed a young woman on the lips in ‘Morocco’ (1930) , Indian films waited another 40 years to even hint at homosexuality.

The mythologies of the nascent era of Indian cinema were gradually giving way to the more realistic family themes of the 40s and then the romantic genre of the 50s. While filmmakers were trying to step outside the beaten track of traditional Indian themes, there was no allowance for portrayal of same sex, a subject that was still taboo in a country where the discourse on sex itself is bound by moral restriction.

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