Most of us love Bollywood and the dose of drama and excitement it brings with it. We’ve fallen in love every time Shah Rukh Khan has spread open his arms, we’ve danced to songs with cringe-worthy lyrics (guilty), sat at the edge of our seats when the hero gets beaten up in an overly dramatic action sequence. We’ve picked up dialogues, taken fashion inspiration and turned them into trends that live on for years. Bollywood always finds a way to entertain its audiences in one way or another with its mass appeal and its loud but interesting characters. But today, this, isn’t about those films.
Every once in a while there comes a gem of a film, which makes us fall in love with its relatable storyline, its screenplay, its subtlety and its characters. A film that changes the way one sees and perceives ideas and challenges us to think beyond our social beliefs. One such film that has helped achieve that in the recent times is Kapoor & Sons. The movie was promoted as the story of this zany old guy (played by Rishi Kapoor) and all the madness that surrounds his wish of getting a family picture before he dies. It turned out to be so much more, it made us laugh, cry and touched all the bloody strings there are in our hearts with how relatable it was. Every character spoke volumes even when they weren’t saying much and the one character that stood out for me and most of us was that of Fawad Khan.
To refresh your memory (although I’m sure it doesn’t need any refreshing) Fawad played the role of Rahul Kapoor, a successful author who had been living away from his family for a while in London. His return to his childhood home unraveled a whole world of drama that he couldn’t have expected. From the tension between him and his brother to the troublesome marriage that his parents had, to his mother’s attempts at finding the perfect girl for her handsome son. While he manages to fix everything else around him, his personal life falls apart when his mother finds out her son is gay.
A few years ago, Dostana, produced by the same banner, had two men pretending to be gay as its central characters. So, Kapoor & Sons wasn’t the first time that a commercial film with mass appeal had a gay character but it was definitely the first time that the character wasn’t used merely as a funny accessory to the storyline. Fawad added layers to the character that brought out the fears, vulnerability, and complexities I presume a person in a situation like Rahul’s might face. His earnest approach made the character believable and real.
Most A-listers in the industry play it safe and stick to characters that they think work in mainstream cinema. In doing so, they often write-off opportunities and even possibilities of challenging content being made. But the way Kapoor and Sons was received at the box-office changed the perception of not just the audience but also the actors of the industry. During an old interview with IANS, when one such A-lister, Ranbir Kapoor was asked if he would play a homosexual character on-screen like Fawad did, he said:
Sure, but now it’s already been done. Now he’s (Fawad has) opened the door and it’s easy for us to walk through it. But earlier… I must honestly say I might have turned it down.
There have been other films like Aligarh that have also had homosexual protagonists and are a must-watch for an audience that is conditioned to a certain way unconventional characters are portrayed in films. For the longest time, exploring, discussing and owning your sexuality in India has been considered offensive or ridicule-worthy. Which is why we need to start a conversation that helps people around us live the way they are meant to – of their own free will. We need strong characters like Fawad’s, Rajkummar Rao‘s, Manoj Bajpayee‘s and more who have been thriving to change the outlook of a society burdened by the pressures and beliefs to be constrained in the way they lead their lives and expect others to lead theirs.
The entire month of June is dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ community. There are many events around the world which host pride parades to empower and bring to the world’s notice the rights and freedom that each person deserves when it comes to their sexual preferences. But we’re hoping, over time there wouldn’t be a need to have such events and that everyone can just live the lives they wish to and the way they want.
We may be a long way to getting there but a medium like cinema that has a universal reach and appeal can work wonders in helping the society become more progressive.
Let’s all make an effort. It’s high time we do.