If you had watched the Hindi flick Kapoor & Sons, you would’ve definitely wondered if any top actor from Kollywood would have accepted a role like Fawad Khan’s (he is revealed to be gay)in the film. For that matter, even Arvind Swamy’s Dear Dad — which deals about homosexuality — didn’t release in Tamil.
K’town, in spite of being hailed for always trying out new genres and themes, has always been quite apprehensive about making films that deal with issues relating to sexuality, and has stayed in what is called a ‘safe zone’.
But, this year might prove to be a stepping stone for the industry, with films like Sila Samayangalil and En Magan Magizhvan (My Son is Gay) that promise to start a healthy discussion on such topics.
Filmmakers and actors discuss with us on how cinema, being a medium to also educate and spread awareness, is also an essential tool to speak about sexuality — and how their freedom is being curbed by the Censor Board and more.
En Magan Magizhvan will be one of the first films in Tamil to discuss homosexuality. Speaking about the movie — and how this year could see a radical change in Tamil cinema — Lokesh Kumar, the director of the film, says, “My Son is Gay will release this year and we’ve already been receiving a good response from film directors like Vetrimaaran. The film has mainstream actors and we wanted to take a very simple approach to showing gay love and highlighting the marginalised community — it will also be a U-film. With films like these, one can see how slowly the fine line between art and mainstream is blurring. Apart from this, one can also witness that the films are coming forward to take realistic stands rather than being larger-than-life.”
Kalyana Samayal Sadham, which spoke about sexual issues in a light-hearted way, was in fact received very well by the audience and is now being remade in Hindi.
Lekha Washington, who played the female lead in the original, says, “I haven’t done as many films as I wanted to, because the industries in our country have been misogynistic. I wouldn’t say it is Hindi vs Tamil or anything like that — many movies in Bollywood are far more regressive, while some in Tamil are progressive. So it is more of a cultural issue. To speak from an actress’ point of view, you’re either branded as a chamathu ponnu or glam girl — I don’t understand this. But the new generation is far more progressive in terms of talking about sex and sexuality, and films like KSS only prove that.”
R.S. Prasanna, the film’s director, says, “I was brought-up with a broad-minded view about life. I was initially doubtful if the audience would be ready to accept the movie, especially since it was my first. But I found that risk interesting. My intention was to start a discussion and blow the lid of hypocrisy. Once our movie released, we were showered only with love and affection. There has been a positive change.”
Prasanna continues, “‘We don’t talk about sex, but we’re number one in population’ says Delhi Ganesh sir in the movie. That sums up the argument! But, the urban middle-class population in Tamil Nadu is now more open to talk about such topics. I would say that the new generation is far more accepting — less devoid of hypocrisy. So I guess this is the right time to start a healthy discussion. When a film like Vicky Donor can gain acceptance, it gives a huge leap of confidence.”
Ashok Selvan, who has done a pivotal character in Priyadarshan’s Sila Samayangalil, which has an intriguing take on AIDS, feels that though filmmakers are ready to start a discussion about sexuality in their films, censor certification acts as a major hindrance. Ashok opines, “Cinema, being a mass medium, becomes an important tool to speak about such topics. I can vouch that directors here have so many interesting stories on such issues, but fearing censor board and other stuff, they don’t materialise.”
The Thegidi actor also reveals that Sila Samayangalil speaks about homosexuality as well —“Though in a very subtle way, the film deals about homosexuality also. People would only get it when they watch it.”
He also admits that when compared to Bollywood, Tamil cinema is still lagging when it comes to opening about themes revolving sexuality. “We don’t have films like Parched or Kapoor & Sons here. But I have to say that there’s a myth that only certain kinds of films work here. But you never know — though there might be protests, I think films about sexuality will be welcome here too. You will only know it when you try it —and it’s high time we do it now.”
(With inputs from Bhavana Akella)...