In EK CHAALIS KI LAST LOCAL there is a very subtle picturisation about the homosexuality of the male variety which is a landmark in terms of exploration of sexual preferences of an individual. The amount of Rs. 6.00 lakh that is paid for Abhay Deol by the protector of Neha Dhupia to the police inspector to save her life may have been glossed over in the passage of the moment of the film, but were one to look into it, in retrospect, it is a monumental event. This is owing to the fact that there is an acknowledgment about the same sex preferences which though done in some what crude manner, is coming of the age of Indian cinema. It is rather fortuitous that in other film as well, where this relationship has been explored in detail is in HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT. LTD., where again Abhay Deol is one of the co-stars of the film.
This experimentation which has been initiated on a limited scale by the modern practitioners of the cinema would not have been made possible where the multiplexes not invented. The size of the audience which a multiplex theater at a time contains opens up an opportunity of experimentation. Homosexuality has always been there a practice for quite some time, and it has been depicted in the Hindi films but in a very crude manner and more as a comical relief than as a sexual preference. One such scene of comic relief which immediately comes to the mind is that in SHOLAY where the jailer is on a trip and one of the prisoners, a yesteryear star makes a pass at him. This has been rather the norm of depiction of homosexual preferences. Hollywood and other film industries around the world have been bold enough to portray them as a matter of fact rather than having a comic approach to it.
The comic approach to it was also evident in KAL HO NA HO where doubts in the mind of the maid Sulabha Arya of existence of some kind of a relationship between Shah Rukh and Saif whenever they were together was used as a comic relief. It took a Meera Nair to bring it out of closet through her film FIRE where the question of lesbianism was brought to the fore and was handled in a sensitive manner.
Sexuality on the screen in Hindi films is right now in a state of flux and is evolving. Sensitivity has now been brought to the picturisation about sexual scenes. It all started in earnest with Vidhu Vinod Chopra's PARINDA where though there was never an exposure of skin the way the scene was handled of the first night between Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit made it evocative, and the same level was also evident in LIFE IN A METRO.
Whatever the choices, it is the way that the subject is handled counts, and from this count one could say that the films of the Hindi variety has also started converging to the international approach of issues about sexuality, though it is marked with a hesitancy. It is the hesitancy that is sought to be camouflaged by giving a comic angle to it. Once the hesitancy goes out, then the aspect of sensitivity would definitely take over. Ours is a land of Kamsutra and Khajuraho, and with international markets opening up, the films to gain international connotations have to warm up to these aspects in a nuanced manner as well.