India Goes For Brokeback

The Arts

It’s the world’s biggest movie industry, but a deeply conservative one. But lately, the taboos of partial nudity and adultery have been breached in Indian films (although cautiously and with a certain amount of decorum). Now, months before its release, this poster for Dunno Y . . . Na Jaane Kyun has been causing controversy. The film has already been called India’s answer to Brokeback Mountain, and promises to break new ground by telling the story of a serious sexual relationship between two Indian men. It comes months after a law outlawing homosexuality was overturned in the Delhi High Court.

The film arrives at a time when African and West Indian gay rights are vanishing in a wave of new Christian fundamentalism, and the Chinese government has just banned a gay rights march. London’s Indian community has a bipolar attitude to gay rights, with verbal abuse from young Indian men in certain areas, and complete acceptance in others. Generally speaking, the situation becomes less agreeable the further one moves from the inner city to the suburbs.

Of course, no film like the one above should carry the full pressure of any civil rights movement on its back – the best one can hope for is an appealing story well told. Twenty four years before Brokeback Mountain was made, Harry Hamlin starred in Making Love, one of the most painfully conscious ‘social conscience’ movies ever made. People avoided it because it was boring. But then, I remember sitting through Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner as a kid and thinking ‘So he’s black – what the big deal?’ because I wasn’t raised in the US, where it is historically a big deal. And it this a big deal for India.