Image:
Indianexpress.com

Bollywood needs to do a better job with LGBTQ representation

By:
Shivani Jeet (shivaniidevikaa)

Upcoming horror and comedy Hindi film, Laxmmi Bomb is set to be released sometime in November this year, starring none other than Akshay Kumar alongside Kiara Advani. 

Laxmmi Bomb is a remake of an South Indian film titled Kanchana which revolves around Raghava, who is scared to venture outside and gets possessed by a ghost and starts behaving weirdly. 

The ghost turns out to be a transgender woman who wants to take revenge on an MLA who murdered her and her family for land-grabbing.

While reading the plot, I realized there was a lot wrong with the storyline, and even more so with its execution.

Having a cis-gender, straight man play a trans woman, especially with Bollywood’s track record with LGBTQ+ storylines, is extremely problematic.

While in an interview, Kumar said that his character in Laxmmi Bomb as a transgender person is the most "mentally intense" role of his three decade-long career and he had to be careful about delivering his performance "without offending any community."

However, in order to “not offend” any community, it would be best to leave these roles for actors who actually belong to the community.

Many are debating if this is really a huge triumph for Bollywood, seeing how Kumar is a straight male performing the role of a trans character. If they wanted to be mindful of not offending anyone, there was always the option to search for trans actors and give them the part instead. 

While Hollywood has begun to step up their game towards acquiring more diversified stars from the BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ communities, Bollywood has struggled, and in particular, the industry has never given the transgender community the opportunity to thrive and succeed. 

For example, Bollywood film Dostana’s storyline depicts the LGBTQ+ community in a negative or comedic imitation. The movie itself showed a significant amount of homophobia and cultural stereotypes and the one character who happened to be gay, M performed by Boman Irani - presented him as a sexual predator. 

On the other hand, the coming of age film Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, was both inspiring and fell short. The movie was extraordinary because the writer, Gazal Dhaliwal, is a trans woman herself, but, the film was more subtle on keeping Sonam Kapoor’s character Sweety not as a fully-rounded, and of course - Sonam Kapoor is not a lesbian. 

There has to be more ways to crack through this glass ceiling in the industry, because we can’t genuinely applaud trans characters being shown on screen without the roles being performed by trans actors.

It’s about time Bollywood leads towards a path where the industry is inclusive and diverse. There needs to be more representation for marginalized and vulnerable groups to be recognized not just on set, but behind the cameras too. 

Maybe one day, Bollywood will make enhancements and celebrate trans stories through their own narratives, and big-name actors like Akshay Kumar should be making space, not taking it.

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