Review: Made In Heaven


I admit I watched Made in Heaven,predominantly, because a dear friend of mine worked on the series. I also have a deep respect for the writing and overall aesthetic of Zoya Akhtar (she being my favourite director in Bollywood). I began watching the series with a sense of trepidation, knowing of its premise: the story surrounding the two main leads who are wedding planners, in Delhi. Each episode deals with a different wedding and the stories of the protagonists’ personal lives.

As I watched the first episode, I smiled at the wonderful Neena Gupta, who was such a relatable punjabi lady. And yes, I cringed at the depiction of a gay man, played by a cis-male, Arjun Mathur. Not because of his acting prowess, mind, but, because, I thought, like so many film makers, this depiction would be one that surmised homosexuality as just random sex-seeking and angst, against one’s own different self. The gay kiss was where I rolled my eyes – could they not have found an actor who was comfortable playing a gay man?

Then my friend, who had worked on the series and who I watched the series with, mentioned, “do you know how difficult it is to find an actor who is willing to play a gay man in Indian cinema?” I nodded. I didn’t say anything because I understood and was conflicted. Gay men have been playing straight roles all the time. But that’s our society and a different topic altogether. But a straight man, who should – ideally – value his work ethic and, for that matter, work with someone like Zoya, should jump at this role… Then again, that’s how I think and not how the world operates.

So, I decided to give the series another two episodes, before I called quits on it. However – the second episode got me hooked, and I finished the series, over a night’s viewing. That, in itself, should state how marvellous it is. But if it doesn’t, let me go on with the review.

Each episode deals with a marriage. We have a whole plethora of people being a part of them. Weddings, and the planning of, dealing with the concerns from royal households to that of a common man. Women, who are avaricious and succumb, like all flawed humanity, to the whims of this material world, to women who are empowered and revolt against patriarchal structures, encapsulate this world of marriage, life and love. We are shown grit and determination and then, also, the giving up of the self, love and practicality. Each marriage has something to convey to the Indian milieu – and it’s not just the people speaking English who this refers to. But perhaps, that’s who will end up watching this lovely depiction of the institution that is marriage.

Sobitha Dhulipala, who plays Tara, kept reminding me of Angelina Jolie. And like the latter’s choice of roles, Tara plays this ambitious woman who rises from the lower rungs of society and reaches the place in the ladder she wants to set foot on. Machiavelli would be proud, up to the point, of course, where the character starts her climb and the grey begins to show, soon after.

This is the best part of the show, there is no black and white. There are role reversals and people soaring to loveliness and they being equally capable of plunging into nastiness.

In one of these various shades of grey, falls Arjun Mathur’s character, Karan. Arjun plays the role with an angst unique to the gay subculture. He hits the role with a vulnerability that is discernible, in flashes, to only the most attentive watcher. He makes the character personal and tragic, elevating himself to the stage of coming out and accepting who he himself is. But this journey is not singular, it is taken by all the main leads and is superlative to watch.

The lovemaking doesn’t seem forced (though I will say, Arjun Mathur had to play a top gay man – I guess, showing a passive gay man would push the buck for an actor to pick up the role [?] but then I can also say that showing a femme gay man would also play into one of the many generic stereotypes that gay people have battled against, for so long). Conflict seems to be the name of the game – and alas, life.

Arjun’s love story and the character graph is one of the most intense ones – though I would also say, hurried. It appears most of our lives are encapsulated in nine hours. Most of us gay boys go through what he has gone through. The internalised homophobia, the phobic parent, the sexual abuse by the powers that be, the love gone wrong, the ease of finding sex, the extortion and, yet, the finding of help and succour in the face of adversity. We have all been there in bits and parts. He has brought it out so wonderfully – so sensitively. The scene at the dinner table with his father, where he breaks down and cries, remains my favourite.

I must also talk about the very complex character portrayal of Ramesh Gupta, played by the indomitable Vinay Pathak. The nuanced performance is fantastic, and he deserves a stalwart commendation. He portrays all that could go wrong when one is not true to who he or she is – he is what reality can be.

Homosexual sub culture is neither glamourised nor treated with disdain. It is what it is – another facet of humanity that needs to be recognised and accepted.

It is not just Arjun’s work, but the absolute genius of the side actor casting that needs worthy mention. Ayesha Raza, Kalki Koechlin (shining in a superb portrayal of a kind woman, lost in the understanding of who she is and what she wants), Jim Sarbh (the suave, eligible man who cannot profess his love and cannot be honest about it and so compensates for it in various other ways) – all fantastic!

Two episodes stand out as my favourites: “The Price of Love” where the bride rocks and becomes a personification of women empowerment and “It’s Never Too Late” where Dipti Naval is, as usual, brilliant and such a pleasure to watch. Feminism stands balanced in every episode, with a healthy dose of the portrayal of women who are gentle and cruel, lost and strong, ambitious and content. The best part is that I could feel, as I watched these episodes, that the writers were hardly ever passing judgement. They have tackled the topic of not just feminism and alternate lifestyles but also of drugs, corruption and the helping power of good counselling.

I have not seen such a web series in a very long time. It is, in equal proportions, mature and engaging, liberal and empowering, engaging and staid. I applaud all the makers behind this venture: with a special brava to the writer-directors: Alankrita Shrivastava, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, and two thumbs up to the other directors: Nitya Mehra and Prashant Nair.

Absolutely cool, will definitely be spreading the word.

~ Harpreet Singh

GB Through the Years


GayBombay is an informal organisation based in Mumbai, India, the stated objective of which is to create safe spaces for the gay community to meet and interact. Started in 1998, GayBombay has been regularly organizing meets, parties, film screenings, treks, picnics and workshops.

History

The Early Phase (1998-2001)

GayBombay was started at a time when the gay scene in Mumbai had gone underground as a result of a police raid on a beach house party at Madh Island. Though the raid did not result in large scale arrests, it received considerable amount of publicity in the national press. The city’s gay community was unnerved, especially given the fact that homosexuality was then a criminal offense in India.

It was against this backdrop that GayBombay came into being. Started a web-site in 1998, GayBombay moved to organising social meets and movie outings. In 2000, GayBombay organised its first party, signalling the resurgence of Mumbai’s gay social scene, which had been in the doldrums for many years.

The Growth Phase (2001-2009)

GayBombay soon began organising parties in places that were considered the trendiest discos in town. This period coincided with an economic boom that saw the numbers swell. Entry to a GayBombay party entailed a cover-charge averaging at around $10 (500 rupees), which was by no means cheap by Indian standards. But Mumbai, like may other cities in India, was witnessing a information-technology enabled boom.

Young people had money to spend and they were spending it on GayBombay parties. GayBombay uses the surpluses from the parties to fund a range of other events, such as film club screenings, meets and workshops, which are free. GayBombay also organises day treks and picnics to places nearby Mumbai and occasional trips to Water Parks and movies, which attracts a crowd that is usually not seen at parties.

The Maturity Phase (2009 – Present)

In 2009, the Delhi High Court de-criminalised homosexuality in India. GayBombay celebrated the landmark judgment with a cut-rate party at a night club called Karma, one of its most popular venues. Meanwhile, several cities in India, organised annual Gay Pride Parades. Mumbai was one of them with the large participation of gay men, women and other alliance partners and supporters.

GayBombay, with its expertise in parties, would organise the post-pride march party. As society has changed, GayBombay too has been changing. Many of the original founders have moved on and been replaced by a different set of people. And as time has passed, Mumbai has seen the emergence of several other groups which organise events for the gay community.

On 6th September, 2018, the Supreme Court of India stated that consensual sexual acts between adults cannot be a crime, deeming the prior law “irrational, arbitrary and incomprehensible.” This was a huge step forward for the LGBTQ community and the dynamic for the revolution took a vibrant turn. In its wake, GayBombay continued to host its events and has been proud to be such an integral part of the community in the years when Section 377 still held its dark sway.

Activities

Sunday Meets

The first GayBombay meets were in South Mumbai – but they shifted to Bandra more centrally located venue , so people from all over the city could commute easily. The initial venue was Bandra’s McDonald’s outlet, where it was not uncommon to get upto 30 people gathering.

The restaurant’s management finally informed the gathering that so many people could not be allowed to occupy space for long periods of time on a Sunday evening. GayBombay had to move out and one of it’s members offered to take the group to his aunt’s house nearby.

Thus started a tradition of having meets at private homes, where people could talk more comfortably. First timers too felt safer in a space in the informal setting of someone’s home. The meets discussed everything related to the gay subculture.

In 2002, the meets moved to the house of a gay couple in nearby Khar. An added benefit of these home meets were that they gave newcomers a view to gay lifestyles.

The meets moved back to the aunt’s three years later. Some meets metamorphosed into special themed meetings, on relationships, STD, financial planning, where GayBombay’s resident experts chaired.

Two of GayBombay’s most popular themed events are its annual Parents Meet, attended by parents of LGBT children and its Relationship Meet, where the focus is on long-term relationships. Each month there are two meets on regular basis – one in Bandra and the other in the far flung Eastern suburb of Thane.

Since 2016, GayBombay has also given a platform to the siblings of the LGBTQ community, hosting its annual Siblings Meet in the month of September.

Parties

GayBombay’s first party took place at a private home, but given the size of Mumbai’s apartments, the number of guests were limited.

GayBombay’s first large scale party was organised in an old studio in Mahalaxmi in 2000. With memories of the Madh Island police raid still fresh, GayBombay went to great lengths to keep the party low key. The venue was a closely guarded secret and attendees were required to meet at the nearest rail station, from where the organisers would bring them to the venue. The first few parties were free, with GayBombay’s founding members paying for the venue, music and food. Guests were asked to bring their own liquor.

The next breakthrough was when the parties moved into night clubs, beginning with a now extinct club called Swig, in Tardeo. Other venues included Mikanos in Parel, Razzberry Rhino in Juhu and Copa Cabana on Marine Drive. There were also a Valentine’s Day party on a boat cruising Mumbai’s harbour, which found its way into The Times of India as “one of the great ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year”.

The GayBombay New Year’s Eve party attracted as many as 800 people, not just from Mumbai, but from all over India and the world. Non-resident Indians, who generally come to India during winter, form a large contingent.

The biggest difference between GayBombay parties and the ones that had gone before was that there were no dark rooms. GayBombay still takes care to see that there is no “hanky panky” at its parties. This is in keeping with its policy of keeping its events non-sexual. Partly as a result, GayBombay has served as an ideal platform for newbies venturing into the gay world for the first time.

Film Club Screening

The very first GB Film Club screening was held in a hall at an establishment called Ayushakti Ayurved Centre in the Western suburbs of Mumbai. Excellent vegetarian lunch was served as well. Over the years more than 500 screenings have been held and nearly 1500 films screened.

After the first few screening at the Ayurved centre, GB moved to more formal theatres in small auditoriums in colleges. Now the film club screenings have become synonymous with the conference room of a college in Bandra along with piping hot samosas and tea during the break. The screenings which are held every couple of months have become immensely popular, each of which are attended by over 150 members.

Treks and Picnics

In the early days, GayBombay organised several small outings, like a trek to Lohagad, where a Tata Sumo was hired to travel and every body who participated chipped in. Daytime outings grew and became very popular, and GayBombay was soon hiring two large buses for a trek-cum picnic to Karnala Bird Sanctuary. There was a walk to Kanheri Caves in the National Park at Borivali, where a visiting gay professor from University of Oxford gave everybody the run down on the history of the place.

The first formal picnic in which all food, transport and activities at the venue were arranged for was in September 2006 to Kihim Beach, across Mumbai harbour. It was an eventful picnic with the sea turning rough and the catamaran transport being suspended for the day. The 80 picnickers were literally marooned and had to squeeze into a 60-seater State Transport bus to return back to Mumbai.

The first formal trek with certified trek guides and full use of trekking equipment was held in July 2007. The trek was initially planned for Fort Sudhagad but a delay caused by a tyre puncture and a traffic jam on the Mumbai Goa Highway necessitated a change of plans. The treks instead went to Fort Sarasgad, a tough trek tough for many first-timers. Both there forts are in the Pali Region of the Sahayadri Ghats. The Fort Sudhagad finally happened in the subsequent year.

Over the years GayBombay has had picnics to the Elephant Caves (Covered by ABC TV for their Documentary), Matheran Kelve Beach, Kashid Beach, Murud Janjira, Durshet, Khodala, Tungareshwar, Nagaon Beach, Alibaug; Kolad, Bhandardara, Silent Hills, Manor; Narpad Beach, Dahanu.

Festival Gatherings

GayBombay’s organises an event centered around flying kites in January every year, on the occasion of the festival of Makar Sankranti, a breezy period when people around the country fly kites. GayBombay’s event is organised on Mumbai’s Juhu Beach and a large number of people turn up, some of whom are good at flying kits, most of whom are there to watch the kite-flying, meet friends and enjoy the sunset.

GayBombay also celebrates the colourful festival of Holi, again at Juhu Beach, in the month of March. Thousands of people make their way to Juhu Beach on Holi, and the sea turns a bright red from the colour they wash off their bodies.

It sporadically enjoys the festival of Raksha Bhandhan as well, when the date of a Sunday Meet falls on or close to the festival.

30th September, 2018: The 5th GB Annual Talent Show


Liberated at 20!

This year, our 20th Anniversary celebrations coincided with the fabulous Supreme Court Verdict on Section 377!

As it is our Anniversary Month, we at GB hosted several events, spaced through the city, as we have done in the last 20 years.

One such beloved event, in the month long birthday fest, happens to be our 5th ANNUAL GB TALENT SHOW.

Date: 30th September, 2018

Time: 4:00 PM Onwards

Venue: National College Auditorium, Bandra [w]

Free Entry: Seating will be first come, first served, so please make sure to arrive on time to garner good seats.

There will be a line up of wonderful song and dance routines from the LGBTQ+ community.

There will be a break in between for refreshments.

If you are so inclined, do click and read the write up on last year’s show.

SC ruling on Section 377 has removed legal barriers, now emotional ones must be tackled: Devdutt Pattanaik


First featured on firstpost.com

As the Supreme Court of India has scrapped portions of Section 377, effectively decriminalising gay sex in India, there’s a tremendous sense of relief that this has finally happened. It was an eventuality but we wondered when this would come to pass, and also there was a sense that this was the last frontier — if we fail here, it will never perhaps occur in our lifetime. So yes, it’s a great relief that it has.

In 2009, when the Delhi High Court had ruled to abolish Section 377, editors asked me to write articles about it. I wrote one that became quite popular — On Krishna’s Chariot Stands Shikhandi — which talks about how in the Mahabharata, a female to male trans-sexual plays a critical role in the victory of the Pandavas over Kauravas. In other words, queer sexuality was a very important part of the dharma war. My aim in writing this article was to draw attention to how queer sexuality is very much a part of Indian traditions.

Then in 2013, on my birthday, I heard this horrible judgment which overturned the Delhi ruling. I remember breaking down… I couldn’t believe India could take such a regressive step and that we were going back to colonial times and ideas — that this primitive, outdated law was being upheld.

Five years later, on my sister’s birthday, I happened to be in Delhi when I heard of the Supreme Court’s ruling. I went to the SC along with the petitioners and lawyers, and the joy in the room had to be witnessed, as the judges unanimously threw out this archaic law and read it down to its bare minimum.

So many people worked towards making this judgment happen. For my part, it was important to make the general public aware that homosexuality, bisexuality, transexuality are very much a part of Indian traditions. Therefore, I started writing extensively (about these subjects) — not so much for advocacy as for awareness. I wrote books like Shikhandi, retold queer stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, stories of Yuvanashva, Bhangashwana, of men who became women and women who became men, of kings who became pregnant, of gods who took on female forms, stories of men who fell in love with men, women who fell in love with women.

I also introduced a book called I Am Divine, So Are You by Jerry Johnson, which comprised essays explaining how religion — especially Karmic religions, religions that believe in rebirth such as Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Sikhism — can act as an ally rather than as an adversary (of queer individuals). We made these books available thanks to the publishing houses that enabled this, and they were received very well — revealing how mature Indians are.

We were not a conventional, fundamentalist state that frowns on pleasure and private acts of intimacy and I think some of (my) books along with those of Ruth Vanita were also presented to the SC judges. So I think this, perhaps in small measure made people aware that (queer sexuality and identity) is very much part of our culture and in some small way I hope that it contributed and helped in this judgment today.

The legal barriers have now been removed but the emotional barriers are still to be tackled — and this can only be done at the private level within families where we allow our children, our nephews, nieces, siblings, parents to tell us stories about unconventional sex lives, unconventional emotional lives, about queer feelings, thoughts and experiences. It’s only when we talk to each other and reveal the truth to each other that life will become better and I think that’s the journey ahead. The journey of acceptance, of sensitisation, of accommodation, of dealing with people who are different from us. And each one is on a spiritual journey… as we make ourselves worthy of listening to other peoples’ truth without flinching, making ourselves vessels of love. I think that’s a journey that is private and personal. The law just has made it possible to talk about it openly and this is just the first step. So many things will happen now.

As a queer Indian, I always got my strength from Hindu scriptures and I always felt comfortable with my sexuality. I would always wonder why other people had a problem with my sexuality and I realised that perhaps they have not read the Vedas and the Puranas as I have. Therefore, it has been my life’s mission to help people understand the brilliance of the Vedas, Puranas and the RamayanaMahabharatawhich tells us to live fulfilled lives, accommodating different types of sexualitites around us.

At a personal level, I never really sought legal approval. I was just careful as people can misuse or abuse the law, and one has to respect the law of the land. It was very difficult to respect a law that was completely against who you are. I am so glad that this law has gone away and I don’t have to pretend or be wary of someone who can use it to make my life miserable. Other than that, I think my life has always been wonderful.

Our country and people surprise us and in a way we had outgrown this law long, long ago… However, its presence was a reminder of the colonised mindset… of having been a British colony. I am so glad we have finally declared our independence day for the LGBTQ community that includes me. I am part of an informal group called Gay Bombay and we have always provided safe spaces for young gay men where they can talk about their sexuality and come to terms with it and not submit to parental pressure or be part of horrific forced marriages which destroy not only one but two lives forever. So we have tried to help some people… some unfortunately succumb to the pressure of marriage and that is a horrible thing. Now, hopefully, it will become much easier. We may hopefully not need safe spaces but have open spaces where people can talk about sexuality in more open terms. I am really looking forward to a new India.

— As told to FP Staff

Updated Date: Sep 06, 2018 20:11 PM

GayBombay Congratulates the LGBTQ Community


Congratulations!!

The Honourable Supreme Court of India today (6th September, 2018) defanged section 377 of the Indian penal code that criminalised homosexuality.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices D Y Chandrachud, A M Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra, and Rohinton Fali Nariman, in separate but concurring judgments, ruled that India’s LGBTQ community has the same sexual rights as everyone else.

“A hundred and fifty eight years is too long a period for the LGBT community to suffer the indignities of denial. That it has taken sixty eight years even after the advent of the Constitution is a sobering reminder of the unfinished task which lies ahead. It is also a time to invoke the transformative power of the Constitution.”

“The choice of a partner, the desire for personal intimacy and the yearning to find love and fulfilment in human relationships have a universal appeal, straddling age and time. In protecting consensual intimacies, the Constitution adopts a simple principle: the state has no business to intrude into these personal matters. Nor can societal notions of heteronormativity regulate constitutional liberties based on sexual orientation.”

“Sexual and gender based minorities cannot live in fear, if the Constitution has to have meaning for them on even terms. In its quest for equality and the equal protection of the law, the Constitution guarantees to them an equal citizenship. In de-criminalising such conduct, the values of the Constitution assure to the LGBT community the ability to lead a life of freedom from fear and to find fulfilment in intimate choices.”

“The impact of Section 377 has travelled far beyond criminalising certain acts. The presence of the provision on the statute book has reinforced stereotypes about sexual orientation. It has lent the authority of the state to the suppression of identities. The fear of persecution has led to the closeting of same sex relationships. A penal provision has reinforced societal disdain.”

“Sexual orientation is integral to the identity of the members of the LGBT communities. It is intrinsic to their dignity, inseparable from their autonomy and at the heart of their privacy. Section 377 is founded on moral notions which are an anathema to a constitutional order in which liberty must trump over stereotypes and prevail over the mainstreaming of culture. Our Constitution, above all, is an essay in the acceptance of diversity. It is founded on a vision of an inclusive society which accommodates plural ways of life.”

“We hold and declare that in penalising such sexual conduct, the statutory provision violates the constitutional guarantees of liberty and equality. It denudes members of the LGBT communities of their constitutional right to lead fulfilling lives. In its application to adults of the same sex engaged in consensual sexual behaviour, it violates the constitutional guarantee of the right to life and to the equal protection of law.”

“Society cannot dictate the expression of sexuality between consenting adults. That is a private affair. Constitutional morality will supersede any culture or tradition.”

“The choice of a partner, the desire for personal intimacy and the yearning to find love and fulfilment in human relationships have a universal appeal, straddling age and time. In protecting consensual intimacies, the Constitution adopts a simple principle: the state has no business to intrude into these personal matters. Nor can societal notions of heteronormativity regulate constitutional liberties based on sexual orientation.”

A great thank you to

The Honourable Supreme Court of India

Click on the link for : The entire verdict on Section 377