Lesbian themes in Hindi-Urdu films

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''' I Can't Think Straight ''' (2008/UK/ English)  (Directed by Shamim Sarif and produced by Hanan Kattan Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth kiss and make love more than once in the film. Tala is a Jordanian woman about to get married. Leyla is of Indian origin living in London. she is dating Tala's best friend Ali. But they discover true love in each other. In the film’s brilliantly hilarious last scene two British women comment on the lesbian couple. ‘She’s what?’ asks one. The other woman, obviously somewhat hard of hearing, replies, ‘But some of my best friends are Lebanese.’
 
''' I Can't Think Straight ''' (2008/UK/ English)  (Directed by Shamim Sarif and produced by Hanan Kattan Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth kiss and make love more than once in the film. Tala is a Jordanian woman about to get married. Leyla is of Indian origin living in London. she is dating Tala's best friend Ali. But they discover true love in each other. In the film’s brilliantly hilarious last scene two British women comment on the lesbian couple. ‘She’s what?’ asks one. The other woman, obviously somewhat hard of hearing, replies, ‘But some of my best friends are Lebanese.’
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=2018 onwards: a new, female screenwriter driven wave =
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[https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/these-women-are-changing-indias-screen-heroine/articleshow/70036399.cms  These women are changing India's screen heroine - Times of India| July 2019]
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 +
 +
A new wave of female screenwriters is bringing real and relatable women characters to films and web shows
 +
 +
When Gazal Dhaliwal began working on a film script about a Punjabi girl who falls in love with another girl at a wedding, she took a trip down memory lane. Many of Dhaliwal’s own experiences of being bullied in school for being an effeminate male child, ragged in college, and her father’s support when she came out as a transwoman found their way into the Sonam Kapoor-starrer Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.
 +
 +
After the film released this year, Dhaliwal received several messages from lesbian women in India and Pakistan. “Many of them had taken their parents to watch the film, and they came out ready to talk to their daughters,” says Dhaliwal.
 +
 +
Dhaliwal is among a growing number of female writers in Bollywood writing stories about real women, and breaking conventions in a film industry that objectifies female actors or presents them as flat supporting characters to the male hero.
 +
 +
In recent years, there have been a growing number of successful films with women screenwriters at the helm: Juhi Chaturvedi for October and Piku, Kanika Dhillon for Manmarziyaan, Dhaliwal for Ek Ladki Ko Dekha..., Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri for Veere di Wedding, Zeenat Lakhani for Hindi Medium, and Pooja Dhala Surti for Andhadhun. “These movies tell women that their stories are worthy of being told. It makes them feel validated,” Dhaliwal says.
 +
 +
“Gone are the days when female characters were just prototypes,” says Kanika Dhillon, who most recently wrote Manmarziyaan and drew upon her own early life in Amritsar to create the spitfire lead Rumi. “The women that I write are real”. One reason for this change is that more actresses are turning producers, says Bhavani Iyer, who co-wrote the 2018 film Raazi. “They want the story to be about them and not just be window dressing.”
 +
 +
The overall representation of Indian women’s stories has been dismal, but there are signs of change. According to a study on gender bias in popular films by the Geena Davis Media Foundation in 2015, only 12.1% of writers in Bollywood were women, lower than the global figure of 19.7%. In 2018, only 19.6 % of the 102 Hindi films released on the big screen were written by women, according to a study by Arre, an entertainment content platform.
 +
 +
These skewed demographics also affect on-screen representations of women. According to a 2017 study of 4,000 Wikipedia pages of Hindi movies released since 1970 by researchers from IBM, The Indian Institute of Information Technology and Delhi Technological University, 80% of movie plots had more mentions of male characters than female ones.
 +
 +
The credit for change also goes to streaming platforms that offer more opportunities and freedom to women writers. For instance, five out of 11 Netflix Originals and four of the five Hotstar Specials announced so far have at least one woman writer on board.
 +
 +
“The film industry believes they are creating their films for middle class India, and most of their audience is male,” says Devika Bhagat, co-writer of the Amazon series Four More Shots Please. Bhagat says it still wouldn’t be possible to make a show like FMSP, which explores themes like bisexuality, one-night stands and dating after divorce.
 +
 +
Though a lot has changed, there is still considerable inequality, says Alankrita Srivastava, who co-wrote and co-directed the acclaimed web series Made in Heaven with three other women. “This inequality is systemic and historic. The male gaze has shaped popular culture, the way we watch films, the way films are made,” she says. This extends to the roles women are given and the boxes they’re put in — the slutty vamp, the virtuous wife, or the virginal pure girl — and the lack of interiority in their characters. “The more women there are on set, not just directors but also writers, producers and technicians, the more it will change cinema narratives,” she says.
 +
 +
While OTT platforms are more open and inclusive, women should have equal representation on all mediums, says Srivastava. There remain deep-rooted challenges such as casual misogyny, unequal pay and the pigeonholing of women into certain genres. While the pay gap has been shrinking, Bhagat points out that there is still a 10-15% difference between male and female screenwriters. “I was once told by a line producer that the male dialogue writer deserved more money because he had a family to support and I was single and could just ask my dad for money,” she recalls. Pooja Varma, a co-writer on the second season of Netflix’s Sacred Games, seconds this. “During negotiations, people have asked me to accept a lower fee because I have been assured that I will be protected on set,” she says.
 +
 +
Dhaliwal recalls how a director once refused to hire her for a project though he liked her work “because it’s a man’s story and you wouldn’t be able to write it.” Yet, some writers such as Iyer, who is working on Amazon’s crime drama web series Breathe after Raazi, are breaking this norm. “It makes a lot of sense to subvert the genre if you get a woman writer to do an action film or a male writer to write a saas bahu story,” she says.
 +
 +
Some male directors rely on a collaborative process such as director Sriram Raghavan who worked with writer and editor Pooja Ladha Surti since his debut, most recently in the 2018 film Andhadun. “When we discuss female characters, I rely on her for certain insights I may not have,” he says.
 +
 +
It’s still far from a level playing field but Atika Chohan, who is writing the script for Deepika Padukone’s forthcoming biopic Chhapaak on the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, says there’s a distinct change in what writers like her could have done a few years ago. “It has been a time of transition. Talented female writers and directors who have waited in the wings for a long time are now getting a chance.”
  
 
=See also=
 
=See also=

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Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi in Fire
Isha Koppikar and Amrita Arora in Girlfriend
Sunny Leone & Sandhya Mridul: Ragini MMS 2

Lesbian themes in Bollywood films

The Times of India

Even homosexuality is gender biased in Bollywood. In the past, there have been films that have screened lesbian love making scenes in Hindi cinema, only to draw the ire of political parties, be it a film like Fire or Girlfriend. But that has not deterred film makers from pursuing the subject. Here's a look at five lesbian scenes from Bollywood films.

Dedh Ishqiya Huma Qureshi and Madhuri Dixit in Dedh Ishqiya- In a brilliant film by Abhishek Chaubey, the film maker explores the theme of homosexuality through the two female protagonists played by Madhuri and Huma. Their love for each other is kept a secret and is revealed much later, a move that takes audiences by surprise. The homosexuality is subtle but obvious and makes the film a pure delight to watch, especially when viewers are under the false impression that the love story is between Arshad-Huma and Madhuri and Naseeruddin. Bravo!

Fire Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das in Fire-The first installment in Deepa Mehta’s elements trilogy, Fire was a bold film, especially when it released (1996). The film was mired in controversy as Shiv Sena protested to the lesbian theme in the film. Fire is a beautiful story of two women who are married to two brothers who neglect them and end up having a relationship with each other, thus exploring their sexuality. Both Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das did an exceptional job with the film, but perhaps the time was not right as maybe cine goers and people in power were not ready for such a bold themed film.

Girlfriend Amrita Arora and Isha Koppikar in Girlfriend- When the Amrita Arora and Isha Koppikar starrer film Girlfriend released in 2004, it got embroiled in controversy for its bold content. The movie explored the theme of alternate sexuality where the two women protagonist end up having feelings for each other. Both Isha and Amrita received flak for doing such a film as that time, Bollywood and viewers were still opening up to the theme of sexuality, something that was not exploited too much on the silver screen.

Heroine Kareena Kapoor and Shahana Goswami in Heroine- Kareena Kapoor’s Heroine may have bombed at the Box Office, but director Madhur Bhandarkar went a step ahead to explore the theme of lesbianism, albeit subtly in the film. In a scene where Kareena and Shahana Goswami are having a spend over at the latter’s place in the film, Shahana leads Bebo to the bedroom, a scene that implies the two have had a one night stand. Madhur Bhandarkar has done this cleverly in a bid to avoid any controversy for his film. Surprisingly, a mainstream actress like Kareena Kapoor Khan agreed to do this scene in the film.

Ragini MMS 2 Sandhya Mridul and Sunny Leone in Ragini MMS 2- Balaji Telefilms’ and ALT Entertainment’s Ragini MMS 2, a sequel to Ragini MMS are leaving no stone unturned to ensure their film grabs eyeballs. And literally so! Starring Sunny Leone and Sandhya Mridul, there is a passionate kiss between the two female protagonists of the film. While this may be the requirement of the script and a minor diversion in the film’s subject, it has to be included in our list.

[edit] Diaspora cinema

Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in The world unseen
Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight
Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight
Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight
Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth in I Can't Think Straight

Even Fire was a diaspora film, having been directed by an Indian-Canadian.

The World Unseen (2007/South Africa | UK/ English) (Directed by Shamim Sarif and produced by Hanan Kattan): Miriam is married to Omar (Parvin Dabas) and has children. yet she has a lesbian affair with Amina in apartheid-era South Africa

I Can't Think Straight (2008/UK/ English) (Directed by Shamim Sarif and produced by Hanan Kattan Lisa Ray and Sheetal Sheth kiss and make love more than once in the film. Tala is a Jordanian woman about to get married. Leyla is of Indian origin living in London. she is dating Tala's best friend Ali. But they discover true love in each other. In the film’s brilliantly hilarious last scene two British women comment on the lesbian couple. ‘She’s what?’ asks one. The other woman, obviously somewhat hard of hearing, replies, ‘But some of my best friends are Lebanese.’

[edit] 2018 onwards: a new, female screenwriter driven wave

These women are changing India's screen heroine - Times of India| July 2019


A new wave of female screenwriters is bringing real and relatable women characters to films and web shows

When Gazal Dhaliwal began working on a film script about a Punjabi girl who falls in love with another girl at a wedding, she took a trip down memory lane. Many of Dhaliwal’s own experiences of being bullied in school for being an effeminate male child, ragged in college, and her father’s support when she came out as a transwoman found their way into the Sonam Kapoor-starrer Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.

After the film released this year, Dhaliwal received several messages from lesbian women in India and Pakistan. “Many of them had taken their parents to watch the film, and they came out ready to talk to their daughters,” says Dhaliwal.

Dhaliwal is among a growing number of female writers in Bollywood writing stories about real women, and breaking conventions in a film industry that objectifies female actors or presents them as flat supporting characters to the male hero.

In recent years, there have been a growing number of successful films with women screenwriters at the helm: Juhi Chaturvedi for October and Piku, Kanika Dhillon for Manmarziyaan, Dhaliwal for Ek Ladki Ko Dekha..., Nidhi Mehra and Mehul Suri for Veere di Wedding, Zeenat Lakhani for Hindi Medium, and Pooja Dhala Surti for Andhadhun. “These movies tell women that their stories are worthy of being told. It makes them feel validated,” Dhaliwal says.

“Gone are the days when female characters were just prototypes,” says Kanika Dhillon, who most recently wrote Manmarziyaan and drew upon her own early life in Amritsar to create the spitfire lead Rumi. “The women that I write are real”. One reason for this change is that more actresses are turning producers, says Bhavani Iyer, who co-wrote the 2018 film Raazi. “They want the story to be about them and not just be window dressing.”

The overall representation of Indian women’s stories has been dismal, but there are signs of change. According to a study on gender bias in popular films by the Geena Davis Media Foundation in 2015, only 12.1% of writers in Bollywood were women, lower than the global figure of 19.7%. In 2018, only 19.6 % of the 102 Hindi films released on the big screen were written by women, according to a study by Arre, an entertainment content platform.

These skewed demographics also affect on-screen representations of women. According to a 2017 study of 4,000 Wikipedia pages of Hindi movies released since 1970 by researchers from IBM, The Indian Institute of Information Technology and Delhi Technological University, 80% of movie plots had more mentions of male characters than female ones.

The credit for change also goes to streaming platforms that offer more opportunities and freedom to women writers. For instance, five out of 11 Netflix Originals and four of the five Hotstar Specials announced so far have at least one woman writer on board.

“The film industry believes they are creating their films for middle class India, and most of their audience is male,” says Devika Bhagat, co-writer of the Amazon series Four More Shots Please. Bhagat says it still wouldn’t be possible to make a show like FMSP, which explores themes like bisexuality, one-night stands and dating after divorce.

Though a lot has changed, there is still considerable inequality, says Alankrita Srivastava, who co-wrote and co-directed the acclaimed web series Made in Heaven with three other women. “This inequality is systemic and historic. The male gaze has shaped popular culture, the way we watch films, the way films are made,” she says. This extends to the roles women are given and the boxes they’re put in — the slutty vamp, the virtuous wife, or the virginal pure girl — and the lack of interiority in their characters. “The more women there are on set, not just directors but also writers, producers and technicians, the more it will change cinema narratives,” she says.

While OTT platforms are more open and inclusive, women should have equal representation on all mediums, says Srivastava. There remain deep-rooted challenges such as casual misogyny, unequal pay and the pigeonholing of women into certain genres. While the pay gap has been shrinking, Bhagat points out that there is still a 10-15% difference between male and female screenwriters. “I was once told by a line producer that the male dialogue writer deserved more money because he had a family to support and I was single and could just ask my dad for money,” she recalls. Pooja Varma, a co-writer on the second season of Netflix’s Sacred Games, seconds this. “During negotiations, people have asked me to accept a lower fee because I have been assured that I will be protected on set,” she says.

Dhaliwal recalls how a director once refused to hire her for a project though he liked her work “because it’s a man’s story and you wouldn’t be able to write it.” Yet, some writers such as Iyer, who is working on Amazon’s crime drama web series Breathe after Raazi, are breaking this norm. “It makes a lot of sense to subvert the genre if you get a woman writer to do an action film or a male writer to write a saas bahu story,” she says.

Some male directors rely on a collaborative process such as director Sriram Raghavan who worked with writer and editor Pooja Ladha Surti since his debut, most recently in the 2018 film Andhadun. “When we discuss female characters, I rely on her for certain insights I may not have,” he says.

It’s still far from a level playing field but Atika Chohan, who is writing the script for Deepika Padukone’s forthcoming biopic Chhapaak on the life of acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal, says there’s a distinct change in what writers like her could have done a few years ago. “It has been a time of transition. Talented female writers and directors who have waited in the wings for a long time are now getting a chance.”

[edit] See also

Adult content in Bengali cinema Adult content in Hindi-Urdu cinema Adult content in Kannada cinema Adult content in Malayalam cinema Lesbian themes in Bengali films Lesbian themes in Hindi-Urdu films Lesbian themes in Malayalam cinema

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