Bollywood releases ‘first film with gay man as lead character’

A rom-com touted as Bollywood’s first film to feature a gay male lead character has been released in cinemas.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, or Be Extra Careful About Marriage, stars popular actor Ayushmann Khurrana as an openly gay man who clashes with his conservative parents over his boyfriend.

Homosexual relationships are rarely represented in India, which legalised gay sex in 2018.

The film depicts a kiss between the male leads and shows one of the families struggling to come to terms with their son’s sexuality.

“The point was not being apologetic about [gay love]; not depicting it as a problem, not taking it as a disease,” director Hitesh Kewalya told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Our industry, unfortunately, has survived on stereotypes … and I didn’t want to do that. That was my biggest responsibility.

“I wanted to break every stereotype using this platform.”

Mr Kewalya said Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan would be the first mainstream commercial Bollywood movie to openly explore a same-sex relationship.

The director added that the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay sex had allowed him to be more upfront with some scenes, including the kiss.

In one scene, Khurrana’s character wears a gay flag as he struts across a terrace and shouts into a megaphone that his partner’s father suffers from homophobia, “a disease with no cure”.

Some arthouse films in India have depicted LGBTQ stories, including “My Brother Nikhil”, which follows a gay man struggling with HIV.

Bollywood’s first major LGBTQ film was released last year about a lesbian couple, but it was criticised for its muted same-sex references.

In 2008, Karan Johar’s Dostana started discussions when it featured two main characters who pretended to be gay in order to rent a flat together.

Gay men have also featured on dating shows, while drag queens have appeared in singing competitions.

But there is still widespread discrimination and abuse against LGBTQ people in India and same-sex marriage has not yet been legalised.