Art & Culture

Why I don't want to see Fawad Khan playing a gay man in KJo's next film

Vikram Johri
Vikram JohriAug 27, 2015 | 12:27

Why I don't want to see Fawad Khan playing a gay man in KJo's next film

I will let you in on a secret: Fawad Khan, he of the dreamy visage, is playing a gay man in the upcoming Karan Johar film, Kapoor & Sons. I will let you in on another secret: I don't care.

I would have cared if Siddharth Shukla, who also played gay in Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania, had anything to do in the film other than showcase his excellent male form. I would have cared if SRK and Saif had done parts in a KJo film that did not reduce them to butt-fu*king simulacrums scaring a Gujarati maid. I would have cared if John and Abhishek had made another film in which they were not gay-for-pay. I would have cared if a little of the glamorous romance that KJo thinks up for his straight characters would have been showered on us gay men (or women - of whom I hear nothing) in his films.


Why are KJo's gay men so good-looking? I don't know many gay men who smoulder so consistently as a Siddharth Shukla or a Fawad Khan. Gay men are no more attractive or muscled or Greek god-ish than the next straight guy. I suspect KJo, by having these hunks star as gay, is only providing gay-bait, in the hope that his gay viewers will lustily lap it up.

They won't. They don't. I have gay friends who are offended at this idea that by having John give us a good glimpse of his derriere, directors like KJo can somehow atone for the miserable representations they couch us in. But they don't. They merely pander. Gay men, believe it or not, do not care that much about other men's behinds. They care about things as routine as finding love, making a life with a partner, perhaps having children and growing old with enough financial security.

But those roles are not for the Indian audience, we are told. We are not mature enough to handle anything gay that does not allow the numerous breeders on the screen to rib us. It's all good fun, ya! The gay guy then becomes the rejected dude who nervously informs the bride of his sexual orientation, so she can go ahead and get the straight male without compunction. He is the effeminate boy who is the butt of jokes, so that a (straight) ally can descend from the heavens and reprimand those poking fun. He is perhaps a repressed homosexual who does not even know he is gay until the straight world offers him flowers and voila, he has a brainwave.


I have written many articles pleading with our directors to give us characters that look and feel like us. If I saw someone as dashing as Siddharth Shukla on PlanetRomeo, the gay website, I would perhaps not even approach him. His beauty would translate to a certain prestige and cachet within the community - yes it would - and this may make for a barrier that I am ill-equipped to break past and have a meaningful interaction. I would rather meet with the anxious gay man still figuring out the contours of his coming out, who can really use my muscular belief in my sexuality.

Or maybe not. Maybe my story does not have to be this magical or political or awe-inspiring. I may just end up meeting someone who has spun a tale of intrigue around himself until I learn that he is married and meeting me "discreetly". Any of these is a real possibility, one that I have seen so many gay men navigate. There is nothing "cute" or "funny" about any of this, any of us. And there is nothing numinous about it either. Living as a gay person is as fraught with missed hopes and wasted desires as straight romance.


But we don't see any of that on the screen. Even so, I don't deny myself the hope that some of the work that emerges from a changing Bollywood might better represent us. Already, there is a Viacom18 film called Time Out releasing in September that has a school-going kid come to the realisation that his elder brother is gay. The trailer of the film shows the gay brother make suitably militant talk at the dining table: "I am gay; deal with it." I found myself clapping. More power to him. Get us out of the soppy storylines already.

And then move on. As much as I hate caricatures, I equally don't want flag-hoisting on gay rights where everyone stands to attention as some (straight, again) person delivers homilies on acceptance. No on-screen activism please! The gay man is not a stock character, not until you imagine him into life with some deliberation. He is just another person living his life, not being anything. Just show him for who he is, as he lives and works and plays and meets and fu*ks? That would be acknowledgement enough, thank you.

I am keeping my fingers crossed. There might yet come a time when India makes cinema that descends on the LGBT viewer like a halo. Films like The Hours or Brokeback Mountain or Boys Don't Cry that have shaped us and defined us as we have searched for culture that takes the conversation forward. But that can wait. For now, just let us exist on the big screen without burdening us with stereotypes.

Last updated: March 14, 2016 | 14:12
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