'Girlfriend' Isha Koppiker defends herself
While "Girlfriend" has invited the ire of the self-proclaimed Hindu culture police and gays, actress Isha Koppiker who plays a lesbian in the film is asking what the fuss is all about.
By Subhash K Jha, IANS
"What are people protesting about? Girlfriendis a very real film, based on real situations," Isha, who plays the traumatised psycho Tanya in the film, told IANS.
"Having said that, I'd like to say it was just another role for me...nothing more, nothing less. I've already moved on. For me Girlfriendis history. If others want to hold on to it and create controversies because it suits their purpose, they are welcome to their moment of glory. I'll have none of it."
"For me, Tanya was just another character. That she happened to be a lesbian made it a fascinating challenge to play the role. Though some of my close friends are gay I knew nothing about how they think or behave. So I had to work very hard on getting the body language and attitude right. Which I did."
There have been protests in Varanasi, Mumbai, Bhubaneswar by Hindu rightwing activists, who say the film's theme of alternate sexuality is against Indian culture.
Gay rights activists too have opposed "Girlfriend", saying it is a warped, unrealistic take on lesbianism.
But asks Isha: "Now what's the big deal? Why all this fuss? If it offends a certain section of viewers they've the option of not seeing the film, just like I had the option of not doing the role if it offended my sensibilities as a human being and an actress."
But why the explicit love making sequence with Amrita Arora, filled with suggestive groans on the soundtrack?
Reveals Isha, "Frankly, when it came up I did feel uncomfortable about it. But I left the decision entirely to the director. You'll have to ask him about the groans and moans."
Isha seems adamant on moving on, not being part of the gathering storm that threatens to envelope "Girlfriend".
One recalls how staunchly Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das had defended the lesbian relationship of their characters in Deepa Mehta's "Fire".
Says Isha: "I don't disown Girlfriend. But I don't own it either. The director called the shots. I did what I had to as an actress. Now it's over.
"I've worked so hard on being convincing as a butch that now I'm afraid men will be scared away from me."
The controversies remind one of "Fire", the only mainstream film on female homosexuality from any part of the world, until Andy Wachowsky's "Bound" in 1996 where Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly played lesbian lovers collaborating in a heist. However, the film had no overt reference to homosexuality.
Nor did the gay hero, played by Tom Hanks, in Jonatham Demme's Oscar-winning "Philadelphia", smooch and get into bed with his screen lover Antonio Banderas to prove his sexuality.
So is the Indian censor board getting more liberal than its Hollywood counterpart?
Censor chief Anupam Kher is, for once, evasive. "I haven't seen Girlfriend, nor is it my job to watch every film that comes up for censoring. I've been out of the country with my new play, so I wouldn't know about the explicit content of Girlfriend.
"But yes, I do know that what was submitted for censoring was far more strong in content. Now that the film has been properly graded and censored, there's nothing more to be said on the matter."