Show, don’t tell

Sexualities beyond the binary, and relationships between people from these identities, have always been overdramatised in the celluloid.

Published: 26th June 2021 06:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th June 2021 06:27 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: From love to loss, euphoria to exploration, identity to isolation, and acceptance to ambiguities the world of cinema has, over the years, come out of its closet of confirmation bias, and inched forward, portraying narratives that go beyond the binary.

This evolution has made it an enabling platform for people outside the heteronormative to navigate through life, break existing paradigms in society and embrace their newfound voices and identities. To celebrate not just the mere presence but accurate representation of queer stories on-screen, people from the spectrum share recommendations which highlight, demystify, normalise and showcase the diversity in the LGBTQIA+ community with Roshne Balasubramanian and Kannalmozhi Kabilan.

Moothon (Malayalam)
Sexualities beyond the binary, and relationships between people from these identities, have always been overdramatised in the celluloid. However, Moothon steers clear of such dramatisation and this made it worth the watch for me. Growing up in a household with extremist patriarchal ideologies and homophobia, to watch this film with my family, gave me the courage to come out to them. I do not have a lover or a partner now.

However, when I saw the beautiful love story between the protagonists, two queer individuals, on-screen, it not only made me feel visible but gave hope that people from the spectrum too can find love and feel all the emotions that cishet people feel. This is one of the reasons why such representations are important in films. The life of the duo is portrayed with sensitivity while showcasing the intersectionality of gender identity and its vulnerabilities. In this gangster relationship drama, the fact that love is love, is reinstated powerfully and this to me is a film that breaks all or at least most stereotypes people from the community face.

— Mathurnath Pradheepan, entrepreneur Available on: Zee5

Grace and Frankie (English)
I am a father, a single parent, and I recently came out as gay to my 28-year-old son. While I expected him to be angry, shocked and not-so-understanding, I was in for a shock when he smiled and gave me a long hug instead. Tears streamed down my cheeks. He then told me about a show Grace and Frankie  and credited it for making him aware and accepting of other identities, one that people might go on to explore even in their senior years. A few days after this, we started watching the show together. It gave a ground for us to discuss my identity and any questions he had. An Emmy nominated series, the show explores the life of a group of seniors, of which two characters Sol and Robert are gay. It beautifully portrays them exploring their identities and growing comfortable in it, and their eventual evolution. To come out later in life is a conversation not many have and I am glad that this show does that with such poignant narratives.

— Amarnath P*, chartered accountant Available on: Netflix

Euphoria (English)
Of all the shows I’ve watched, Euphoria is the best at this. I love that they cast a trans person because we need people from the community representing us. We’ve had enough cishet people playing us (and doing a very poor job). I also like the relationship between Rue and Jules because the best friend/girlfriend dilemma is too real for many of us.

— Vijayalakshmi Devanathan, PR professional Available on: Disney+Hotstar

Pose (English)
I highly recommend this show! It is super fun to watch and very informative. The actors who play the roles belong to the community, so I believe it is the right representation. It dives into the history and evolution of the ball culture. It represents trans characters in a real, true and good light unlike many other problematic shows and films.

— Shivani Kulkarni, founder, Queer Hub Available on: Netflix

Angry Indian Goddesses (Hindi)
This film was brave in showing a lesbian relationship in a raw and real form, on the big screen. Pathbreaking in many ways, the film revolves around seven girls. But instead of stereotyping their female relationships, the narrative takes a beautiful turn. The film in its duration also unravels several aspects of misogyny and gender equality. During its release, it raised several eyebrows. But for those who identified themselves as lesbians, the portrayal was a welcome and refreshing change.

— Heena*, professor Available on: Filmy Duniya (YouTube channel)

Call Me By Your Name (English)
This one of the very few LGBTthemed films to enjoy mainstream success. That the movie was readily available on a streaming platform made this film special as it reminded me of the unpursued love when I was growing up. The last scene when Elio cries by the fireplace took me to the time when I first had a heartbreak.

— Ashutosh*, interior designer Available on: Netflix

Peranbu (Tamil)
I am a film enthusiast and from the time I came out as a trans person, I have yearned to see someone like me on-screen. But often, only cis actors are cast as trans persons and this irked me. If trans persons had an acting part in a film, it used to be only as a comic relief. But in 2019, when I watched Peranbu, I was overwhelmed. While the movie does not trace the life of a person from the community, the storytelling and the casting made it an absolute delight. A trans actor, Anjali Ameer, was cast as a trans person and I saw this as a milestone in cinema. I had tears when after several years, I finally saw someone like me, on the big screen.

— Praveena, social worker Available on: Amazon Prime Video

Schitt’s Creek (English)
This show doesn’t make a sob story out of queer people. Many young queer people believe that they will never get a happy life or a happy ending the way cishet people get simply because of their gender or sexuality. I believed that too. Seeing a lot of queer storylines take up that kind of a narrative, where something horrible happens to a person from the community, it reinstills that fear. Here, watching a gay couple have a happy ending is like a breath of fresh air. Being happy and queer is not mutually exclusive. The more these kinds of stories are out there, the more it makes us believe.

— Vijayalakshmi Devanathan, PR professional | Available on: Netflix

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (English)
There aren’t many films that get Sapphic love right so this movie is close to my heart. It romanticises the “female gaze” in a good, welcome way. Most films fetishize WLW relationships so it’s great when a
movie doesn’t do that. Most of them are sexual. It’s like all lesbian relationships are inherently sexual and there’s nothing more to it. It caters to the male gaze and doesn’t show you anything else. Or they completely tone it down and don’t show you any kind of intimacy. It’s not like that here. It shows
all aspects of a lesbian relationship.

— Vijayalakshmi Devanathan, PR professional Available on: Amazon Prime Video

Naanu Avanalla Avalu (Kannada)
The movie is based on trans woman and activist Living Smile Vidya’s autobiographical work, I am Vidya. It brings to the fore the life and challenges people from the transgender community face in society. I have been following her work for a long time. She is a versatile actor, writer and to see her life translate on-screen has been inspirational. It’s not easy for people from the community to step into the film industry, get opportunities and build a career for themselves despite the struggle. But Vidya’s life story is a guide, a beacon of light to so many.

— Praveena, social worker Available on: YouTube

Margarita with a Straw (Hindi)
What does it mean to be normal? To be represented? To be understood? To me, this movie while ticking all the right boxes with its portrayal of several pertinent issues also broke a lot of preconceived notions the society has set on female sexuality. Starring Kalki Koechlin, whose character has cerebral palsy, the film has become an important part of the LGBT genre movies. It explores female sexuality and disability; laces the film with humour and bittersweet moments, making us laugh, cry and smile through its course.

—Punita Harsh, Telecom engineer Available on: Netflix

Atypical (English)
I I wish I had seen this show when I was younger and trying to understand my sexuality. I like the way Casey’s sexuality is handled. She started having feelings for Izzie while she had a boyfriend. The show normalises exploring your sexuality this way and goes to show how confused a young queer person can get because of the heteronormative society we live in. Her character’s got many layers both from this perspective and just as a 16-year-old-girl. Sexuality is a spectrum like everything else and the show drives that message home.

— Vijayalakshmi Devanathan, PR professional Available on: Netflix

Happily Together (English)
Happily Together, one of the best LGBTthemed movies, was one of the earliest films that I saw as a teen. I had to surf so much on the Internet to get hold of it. It aptly represents how lonely gay people are and how it affects relationships, no matter how strong the bond is. I recently re-watched it, and the importance it holds has only increased manifold; it remains relevant. Highlighting the loneliness among the community against the backdrop of the Hong Kong handover to China, the film explores many themes that you rarely see in contemporary, commercial cinema.

— Ashutosh*, interior designer Available on: Mubi

*Names changed


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