When we think of Bollywood movies that represent the LGBTQIA+ community, we picture films that portray and screen a particular stereotype. A stereotype that fits the bill, fits the aesthetic of the film and provides comic relief. It is a portrayal that falls far from the actual truth. When we think of queer-focused films, we think of Dostana or Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga. And while they were good movies and might have brought eyes to pay attention to the LGBTQIA+ communities, they also didn’t portray the community well. While we have exceptional representation and portrayal of the LGBTQIA+ community, in movies like Call Me By Your Name, Love Simon and Moonlight. Here are some movies from the Indian cinema that have done a good job when it comes to showcasing the LGBTQIA+ community.
12 LGBTQIA+ Movies From Indian Cinema
While we have a good list of Bollywood movies, we have also included movies from Marathi and South Indian cinema.
1. Angry Indian Goddess
Unlike mainstream movies where the community is showcased as loud or just with an exaggerated level of flamboyancy, Angry Indian Goddess created a mellow subtle way to describe it. In fact, even the audience wasn’t aware of the lesbian character’s first sexual awakening encounter. But the scene where she says it by enacting as if she is coming out of the cupboard makes her friends and the audience understand that she is coming out of her closet. Angry Indian Goddesses is a movie which explores more on lesbianism and same-sex wedding.
Pronounced as love, is a tale about two friends and their feelings for each other that suddenly finds it’s way, during a weekend trip, and face consequences beyond control. The movie is a spirited treatment of that eternal cliché of romance when sparks fly and hearts break. It follows the friends to lovers trope that is loved by all.
This Malayalam movie isn’t about gay love but explains the relationship beautifully. The story revolves around the journey of a child, Mulla, from an idle life in Lakshadweep Islands to the chaos of Mumbai. Mulla sets out to search for his estranged brother or ‘moothon,’ Akbar. We are used to seeing same-sex relationships depicted in urban settings. But Moothon breaks that stereotype and uses the remote location of Lakshadweep. Unlike many films that explore LGBTQIA+ lives, this film seamlessly explores and questions identity and sexual orientation.
4. My Brother Nikhil
A movie set in the ’90s, that follows the life of the queer lead character, Nikhil. The film directed by Onir, based on the life of Dominic D’souza, and showcases not only the queer lead’s life but also raise awareness on AIDS in India. The film revolves around Nikhil and his relationship with his boyfriend, sister, parents and friend group.
5. Margarita With A Straw
You rarely see a movie that represents a character as differently-abled and queer. Margarita With A Straw is written and directed by Shonali Bose and is the story of Laila, a vibrant, 19-year-old student with cerebral palsy who writes songs for an indie band. The movie follows the journey of the young woman discovering her sexuality, coming out not only to herself but to her family in India.
6. Naanu Avanalla… Avalu
Directed by B.S. Lingadevaru, Naanu Avanall…Avalu, is based on the autobiography of transgender activist and actor Living Smile Vidya. The film follows Madesha’s journey to becoming Vidya. The movie is a personal and explorative film about the challenges and pain experienced as a trans woman. The movie has won the 62nd National Film Award for Best Make-up Artist and Best Actor.
Aligarh explores many dimensions and asks questions like what it is to be homosexual in India and the ill-treatment meted out to the LGBTQIA+ community in the name of morality and sanctity of society. The story follows Hansal Mehta tries to unravel the mysterious death of Aligarh Muslim University professor Ramchandra Siras, whose privacy is invaded and he’s thrown out of his job, till a crusading journalist takes up his story and fight for justice. The movie includes performances from Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao, as the main leads.
8. Memories In March
The idea of opening up, coming out and being accepted by your family and friends is very sensitive. It is an issue that isn’t spoken about in most movies but is dealt with in ‘Memories In March.’ The movie revolves around a mother collecting her son’s body and discovering that her son was gay, having no clue about this. After initial misgivings, her son’s lover becomes her friend and confidant as she finally comes to terms with his death and his sexuality. The movie works as it tries to depict an interaction between two tormented souls, who have lost someone close as they try to work out their differences and get closure.
Fire is a romantic drama written and directed by Deepa Mehta, starring Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi. It is one of the first mainstream Bollywood movies to explicitly show a relationship between two queer women. The film focuses on the two women who grow frustrated with their mundane lives and marriages. Their relationship grows over the course of the movie and they become lovers.
Ravi Jadhav’s short film in Marathi, Mitraa, explores the theme of same-sex relationships based on Vijay Tendulkar’s Mitrachi Goshta. It follows the story of a boy who is in love with a girl until he discovers that she is in love with another woman. The film is shot lyrically in black and white.
11. Super Deluxe
Super Deluxe is about four stories that are cleverly stitched together. One of the stories includes the story of Shilpa, a transgender woman, who is coming back home to meet her son. The actor playing Shilpa portrayed her very well, and the movie shows the discrimination towards her, which is real, raw, and what often happens in the world. The film doesn’t portray transgender people with the (often derogatory) stereotypes that Indian cinema usually does. Here, Shilpa is her own person, with her own story, like anyone else.
Umbartha is one such classic that follows the journey of a woman, Sulabha Mahajan, who defies her conservative husband and mother-in-law’s wishes and sets out to build her own identity. The film includes a story arc that follows a lesbian relationship, where the two women involved in the relationship are introduced as two masked moons singing in the sky and exchanging glances in the film’s popular song ‘Chand Matala’.
Surely, these movies are not up to mark with representation and realness. But with Indian cinema, this is a good start. Not only movies but there are also many Indian TV shows like Made In Heaven, Four More Shots and Ajeeb Daastaans that have showcased the LGBTQIA+ community. And we are eager to see more such representations.