Deepa Mehta gets emotional about gay parade in Delhi

June 30th, 2008 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, June 30 (IANS) Canada-based Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta got emotional when she was told that the first gay parade took place in the capital where the screening of her lesbian film “Fire” was forcibly stopped and disrupted. The “Queer Pride” parade was supposed to start from the Regal Cinema in Connaught Place, the central business district of the capital, but the route was changed due to security reasons. The march began at the Barakhamba Road and ended at Jantar Mantar, the famous observatory and tourist destination.

Besides Delhi, what the organisers termed “Queer Pride parade” was simultaneously held in three other places in India - Bangalore, Kolkata and Puducherry Sunday.

“I wish I could be there. My heart swells with pride when ‘Fire’ is mentioned as a favourite film on alternate sexuality. If ‘Fire’ has inspired the homosexual community, I guess I have much to be proud of,” Mehta told IANS.

Remembering the problems that erupted after “Fire” was released, Mehta said: “I remember, I was in Dubai in 1996 watching A.R. Rahman’s concert. I had put the release of ‘Fire’ behind me. I just thought it would come and go in India without creating a ripple, like all films on unconventional themes.

“I should’ve been warned. I got a call in the middle of the concert asking me to come to Delhi fast. They had just halted the screening of ‘Fire’. I was aghast. It was my first brush with the moral police. Later, of course, I got used to of being bullied by extra-constitutional censors in India,” she added.

And to think “Fire”, starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, had been passed without a single cut when it was submitted to the censor board.

“Not a single shot was cut. Not even Shabana and Nandita’s lovemaking. And this was a decade ago. And I was lulled into a false sense of security. I guess India has progressed, but a section of the moralists won’t accept it.”

Mehta, who has just completed another celluloid treatise on the repression of women called “Heaven On Earth”, recalls with much fondness the vigil that Delhi’s gay community had kept.

“And they carried placards saying, ‘We’re Indian, we are Lesbian.’ Till then some Indian moralists believed homosexuality, especially lesbianism, didn’t exist in India. ‘Fire’ was a turning point for me as a filmmaker. I saw what responsibility was being put on my shoulder. To me, ‘Fire’ wasn’t a film only about lesbianism.”

For years after “Fire” there was no significant film on lesbianism. But now there are films like “I Can’t Think Straight” and “When Kiran Met Karen”.

“I feel happy to see other filmmakers going into the theme. But I repeat, I wasn’t making a film on lesbianism. It was about subjugation and repression. My new film ‘Heaven On Earth’ is also about the same theme.”

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