Indian film-maker hopes to take gay issues out of the closet

Thu Oct 30, 2014 2:00am EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters) - An Indian director is hoping her new film will throw a spotlight on gay rights in a country where homosexuality remains taboo and little progress has been made on repealing a colonial-era law banning gay sex.

"Margarita, With a Straw", which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, tells the story of a teenager with cerebral palsy who is unabashed about her sexuality, much to the horror of her middle-class, conservative mother.

Director Shonali Bose, who lives in the United States and identifies herself as bisexual, said the film comes from two personal experiences - that of exploring her own sexuality and the life of her cousin, who suffered from cerebral palsy.

Bose, 49, said she hoped the film would contribute to the debate over Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which forbids homosexual sex, and eventually lead to sexual legitimacy for homosexuals, bisexuals and lesbians.

"I am ready for right-wing protests when my film releases. Bring them on. As long as people can see the film and talk about these issues, I am ready to face it," the film-maker said in a telephone interview.

India's Supreme Court has refused to decriminalize homosexuality. Last year, it overruled a decision by a lower court to declare sexual intercourse between same-sex partners as legal, saying it was up to parliament to repeal such a law.

Many homosexuals remain in the closet and society's attitude toward the gay community is reflected in mainstream cinema, which hardly touches on these topics.

"Margarita, With a Straw" shows Laila, a teenager with cerebral palsy, falling in love with another woman. This, said Bose, represents an attempt to understand the situation from all sides.   Continued...

Gay rights activists shout slogans during a protest against a verdict by the Supreme Court to reinstate a ban on gay sex, in Mumbai in this December 15, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Files