Rituparno Ghosh Talks To Subhash K Jha On Why Bollywood Needs To Come Out Of The Closet.
There're several major mainstream Hollywood films on the theme of homosexuality. What did you think of Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain?
I'd rate Onirban's My Brother Nikhil much higher. I didn't like Brokeback Mountain at all. In fact I quite hated it. I was put off by the abruptness with which the love scenes between the two male actors came on.
I thought they were unnecessarily sensationalistic and seemed to be put there for titillation. The director was also apologetic about his protagonists' mutual attraction. 'Look they aren't gay.
But when two heterosexual males are thrown together in solitude such a thing may happen.' I found it contrived. I feel filmmakers who have no proper respect for sexuality --in any form—should refrain from comment. A
ng Lee needed to do more research on homosexual behaviour. Like I did historical research for Antar Mahal and Chokher Bali. Or I'd have made a fool of myself.
In fact the other Oscar-nominated film Copote with a gay hero was far superior. Philip Seymour Hoffman played Al Capone with such textured velocity.
Did the central relationship between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllanhall in Brokeback Mountain work for you?
No. Firstly the ambience was too pretty and it took away from the central relationship. Given a choice between the shots of nature and the human relationship, I preferred the former. The balance between 'Nature' and the 'unnatural' was never resolved.
Two actors doing a love scene didn't offend audiences?
Yes. But I wonder how necessary it was for Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllanhal to be shown copulating. Sanjay Suri and Purab Kohli in My Brother Nikhil were able to convey so much more without physical intimacy.
I believe audiences in the Indian metros were uncomfortable watching the the love-making scenes in Brokeback Mountain while they were quite okay with Nikhil.. I found the love-making out of context. I found the gay love-making in My Private Idaho to be much better handled.
Do you think Indian audiences are ready for a sexual revolution?
I don't know. I don't think Brokeback Mountain can be done in Indian cinema. Years ago I had offered Akshay Kumar the role of a gay man. I don't know if he remembers that. Today he's playing the hot-blooded lover in my Rahgeer.
The film is more about passion than sexuality. It will move more within theaccepted mores of mainstream cinema than my last release Antar Mahal. I don't know about our cinema...the sexual more, family structures and parameters of the permissible are different.
But Madhur Bhandar's Page 3 got away with paedophilia.
An actor, if he considers himself an actor, shouldn't consider any topic a taboo. An actor not wanting to play gay person is like a Hindu actor saying he won't play a Muslim. An actor saying no to a homosexual role is an insult to minorityism.
Why do you think we've never ever had a big mainstream protagonist in India with a Muslim name? The only way we get a Muslim protagonist is if they make a Muslim Social like Chaudhvin Ka Chand or Pakeezah.
Why hasn't one of the Khan heroes protested about being called Rahul all the time and not Salim for a change? No mainstream Hindi superstar is willing to represent the minority community, whether it's a sexual or a religious minority.
I salute Sanjay Suri for playing a homosexual in My Brother Nikhil. It could easily have been swept away.
Do you think Indian cinema is getting sexually unabashed?
I wouldn't say so. Look at the reaction to my Antar Mahal. I'd say we've gone a step forward and then gone two steps backward. In Antar Mahal I was very clear about why I needed to show those sexually graphic moments.
The sex was meant to be repugnant. If the sex in Antar Mahal had entertained people they wouldn't have reacted so violently. Sex for the audience is always a matter of titillation.
Whether it's Padma Khanna stripping and dancing for Premnath in Johnny Mera Naam or Heath Ledger and his co-star in Brokeback Mountain copulating, the audience is unconsciously a participant.
So is Hindi cinema still sexually inhibited?
Yes of course. Till today actors can't do without makeup even in realistic cinema. I'd like to make a film on a gay relationship. For me that is easier to do because of it offers the chance to go to any creative limits you want. To do a conventional story like Rahgeer and still make it look different is a greater challenge than a homo-erotic story.