The father of an actor starring in Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun, a new Indian film that has been likened to Brokeback Mountain because of its groundbreaking mainstream gay love story, told reporters recently that he is disowning his son because of the film.
From Pink News:
[T]he Bombay Times reports that Yuvraaj Parasher has been disowned by his family and thrown [out] of the family home in Agra because of his role in the film. His father Satish Parasher told the newspaper: “I feel what he has done is against the culture and tradition of our country and it challenges the purity of the relationship between a man and a woman. He kept us in the dark right from when he signed the film and told us that he is acting with a girl. When we heard about the poster and the things he has done in the film, we were shocked, hurt and humiliated. People will make fun of us and we won’t be able to live peacefully ever again.”
He added that “his mother is totally devastated. We are a respected family and I’m appalled that he is playing a gay man’s role. We’re finished. All the dreams and hopes we had built around him are over. For just a film role, he has lost out on his blood ties. We don’t want to see his face ever… not even when we are dying.” The family claim that no woman will consider marrying him after playing a gay man on-screen.
The plot of the film centers on a struggling male model who travels to Mumbai to win fame and fortune. Once there, the model finds himself involved in a deepening relationship with another man.
Despite a colonial-age law that punished sodomy with a 10-year prison sentence being struck down last year, same-sex relationships remain a taboo in India.
Unsurprisingly, Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun has been closely scrutinized by India’s film critics. Actor Parasher, who plays the love interest of the male lead, has been defiant about his choice to appear in the film:
“I feel cinema and the audience have changed. I never wanted to make my debut as a collegian wooing a chick from my mo’bike. When I was selected to play gay in the audition I was elated. I’d rather do something unconventional.”
Parasher has yet to make a public comment on his father’s comments.
Meanwhile, the film is currently being reviewed by the censorship revisions board after censors asked that a 90-second kiss scene and a lovemaking scene be removed. During a previous showing, the scenes reportedly caused some female members of the censorship panel to walk out in outrage.
It should be pointed out that until fairly recently, mainstream Hindi cinema has remained modest when it comes to heterosexual love scenes, often cutting away when a couple is about to locks lips.
Lately though, filmmakers have pushed those boundaries. From the Guardian:
“The sexual revolution has been under way in Bollywood for half a decade,” said Anupama Chopra, film critic and author. “Kissing is now fairly acceptable for most of the younger stars. The younger directors are responding to an evolving audience.”
However homosexuality remains taboo. The nearest Bollywood has got to portraying same-sex relationships so far is the 2008 film Dostana – which showed two straight men pretending to be gay to persuade a landlady to allow her beautiful daughter to be their housemate. At the end of the film, as a punishment, they kiss.
“It was a comedy but did involve big names playing effeminate men on screen,” Chopra said.
Of course, there have been other gay storylines in recent years, perhaps laying the groundwork for further exploration, but a gay male couple as the central focus of a film is new and somewhat unchartered.
Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun’s director Sanjay Sharma, whose brother Kapil plays the lead, said earlier this year that he believes that Indian audiences are ready for this film and that censors acting as vanguards of taste and decency are lagging behind the the wider opinion of what is acceptable on screen.
Of the gay kiss and lovemaking scenes, Sharma recently argued: “It’s not there just for sensationalism. It’s an integral part of the story and aesthetically shot.” As such, he hopes the film will ultimately be spared and that audiences will not be robbed of the film’s more overt romantic scenes.
With reference to actor Parasher’s family troubles, it is deeply sad that he has faced such hostility from his parents, yet it seems his personal story of abandonment is an unfortunate reflection of the treatment that a gay child too often still receives upon coming out, not just in India but the world over. It also highlights issues that are particular to regions like India where family reputation and standing is still deeply valued.
Does Parasher regret the role? He may, but the entire cast of the film and its makers can find heart in how the film has already been well received.
The film won praise at several international film festivals and the male actors themselves have won accolades for their depictions of this love story, both internationally and from within India:
At a recent awards function, Kapil Sharma and Yuvraaj Parashar were honoured by Deputy Chief Minister Chagan Bhujbal for their sensitive and daring portrayal of gay men in Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun.
Yuvraaj said: “Here we are getting an award and in London the film received lots of praise.”
Said Kapil: “All of a sudden I am getting lots of mail from fans. Can you believe it, a German man who organises a big gay film festival in six cities of Germany was so keen to see it that he flew to London just to watch it. After watching it he has invited the film to be part of his festival. It will be India’s first film in festivals of six cities of same country.
Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun is scheduled for release in Indian cinemas on October 15. No doubt there will be continue to be opposition to the film’s subject matter, but in telling a story about a gay couple in this way, hopefully this will be a small but significant step on the road toward turning the taboo of same-gender love in India into something that people can talk about and discuss openly.
Still from Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyun promotional materials, no infringement intended.
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