So far gay rights and feelings have been blissfully subverted in Hindi cinema. In Karan Johar’s Dostana, for example, John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan were only PRETENDING to be gay.
So all was well in the (hetero) world.
There is no pretence, no artifice, no beating around the bush in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (SMZS). Straight(?)away we are introduced to the couple in love. That they both happen to be males makes no difference to the script. Like Luca Guadgnino’s Call Me By Your Name where Armie Hammer romanced Timothee Chalamet amidst the languorous, sunkissed splendour of the Italian countryside, Ayushmann Khurrana and impressive debutant Jitendra Kumar are a couple in love, facing all the normal problems of a couple in love such as parental opposition and the right to privacy.
But here is the thing. Unlike Call Me By Your Name, the narrative in SMZS doesn’t float in a hazel haze. The setting is not a postcard idyll but a mofussil chaotic town with messy mores to match. And the two protagonists are not matinee-idol poster-boys but highly relatable people whom you may bump into while strolling down Varanasi’s Ganga ghat.
“We wanted to make the characters as relatable as possible. At the same time, we didn’t want to make it a serious humourless study of a socially relevant subject. I believe one can keep the tone light and yet be a responsible filmmaker,” says producer Aanand Rai.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan will make you think and discuss sexual preferences. It will also open up doors for mainstream filmmakers and actors to explore new themes.
Onir the only openly gay filmmaker in Bollywood who made My Brother Nikhil, the only other authentic film on a gay relationship many years ago, says, “I have a feeling Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhaan is not just another sanitized gay love story and that we’ll get to see a real romance between the guys. Looking forward to it.”
Onir says it is time to go beyond the physical aspect of a gay relationship and look at the real emotions underlining such a relationship. “I want to see love portrayed as love in a gay relationship. And I don’t mean just a kiss. I mean the look in the eyes, the sensuality and desire. The queer gaze is different from the male gaze or the female gaze. Now it’s time for the queer gaze to come into cinema, and not from within the closet.”
While SMZS is not a queer film made from queer gaze(the director and actors are not homosexual) it nonetheless captures the essence of the same-sex relationship with a natural warmth of tone that a gay filmmaker like Onir will approve of.