Trendwatch: ‘Gay’ Sequels to Hit Films

Ayushmann Khurrana is common to almost all such films. photo: Spice PR 

Before the lockdown, we had three notable films—Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017), Badhaai Ho (2018) and Dream Girl (2019). The second and third films even crossed Rs, 100 crore. The first was on the socially-relevant topic of impotence, dealt with in serio-comic vein. The second was about late, middle-aged pregnancy at an age when a son is of marriageable age. The third film, treated semi-farcically, dealt with loneliness and a longing for being loved in an era when population was surging and yet lasting romantic companionship was at a premium.

Quite naturally, the respective producers, Aanand L. Rai of Colour Yellow Productions, Junglee Pictures and Shobha and Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Telefilms, decided to cash in on the brands and make sequels “in spirit”—that is, with different storylines but a progressive theme. In Dream Girl2, as in the Golmaal tradition, some of the main characters are named the same, and played by the same actors. But in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and Badhaai Do, only the titles are “similar”, and the characters and settings totally different.

But there is one uncanny common point: each of these sequels revolve around homosexuality! And, incidentally, but for Badhaai Do, all star Ayushmann Khurrana!

In …Zyada Saavdhan and Badhaai Do, the result was fairly entertaining, albeit considerably flawed or illogical in some aspects. Badhaai Do had also faced strictures from the gay community itself for being “inaccurate and poorly-researched”, but nevertheless, it also tackled homosexual relationships in both genders, besides lavender marriages and the issue of child adoption by gay couples. In …Zyada Saavdhan’s plotline, matters were shown coming to a head just a day prior to India’s Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in 2018 that decriminalized homosexual activity!

There were some more points of relevance: to expand the spectrum of viewers (OTT had not made a mark then), each of these two sequels tackled this subject with a kind of sanitized restraint, also to keep censorship at bay and two, every sequel, like each original, was based out of a small town in India. This was simply because metros have always been more open to such subjects that are hitherto considered ‘taboo’ and the producers wanted to make the social messages reach the heartlands. And in that sense, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and Badhaai Ho too had followed in the haloed tradition of the bold Vicky Donor, that had tackled the ostensibly ‘taboo’ subject of sperm donation.

But both these sequels did not do encouraging business. So it was indeed curious that in the pre-OTT era, such subjects as sequels were considered worthy of endorsement by the masses in theatrical releases.  For …Zyada Saavdhan was released in early 2020, and Badhaai Do was conceived and shot in the early phase of the lockdown and completed in 2021, though it released in early 2022, when the lockdown had just ended. This was when a lack of censorship had made web seris makers design a lot of such content in multiple web series.

“You will have to ask the respective filmmakers why they all chose such subjects for their sequels!” says veteran trade analyst Amod Mehra. “I cannot answer this question of why such subjects are chosen in all these movie sequels. But today, we are more open about these realities.”

Not one of any films on homosexuality has however, really worked, which deepens the conundrum in the case of ourhit-obsessed industry. Agrees Mehra, “Way back in 2008, Dostana, which tackled this subject in a light mode, was quite successful, though the heroes in it only pretended to be gays to help them get accommodation as tenants. This has been the only exception. And none of Onir (a filmmaker open about his same-sex preferences)’s movies on this subject has worked.” Mehra also points out that Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021), about a trans-woman, was not successful. The coincidence is that this film too had starred Khurrana!

In the case of Dream Girl 2, where the hero has to lead a dual life of a man and a girl (by trans-dressing), there is a gay angle in the story—the man he is forced to marry turns out to be a gay. The film, which is claimed to be a massive success, is treated in a very farcical way with scant depth and compassion and very lowbrow humor. And the b-o. is being speculated upon in these days of b-o. manipulations!

Observes trade analyst Vinod Mirani, “The subject of homosexuality remained in the closet in the past and has come out in the open now, but this fact is applicable more for the big cities. In the smaller towns and rest of the country, families still frown upon the subject, and thus these films will always have a niche audience.”

Just for the record, Mirani talks about Ashok Row Kavi, the first film journalist to come out in the open about his being gay, while Mehra mentions make-up man Tipu, who faced a lot of hardships because of his sexual orientation. Since then, many more well-known film denizens have come out openly about their sexual preferences.

Obviously, as said above, web series have literally run amok in showing lesbian or homosexual relationships, often when they are not even integral to the plot. But then, as of now at least, censorship is not applicable to OTT, and a few films released directly for streaming too have used this as a part of their storyline.

But as stated before by Mirani, despite social progress, it will be a while before the masses and small-town denizens accept that the whole LGBTQIA+ issue can also make mass-acceptable cinema. Till then, such stories will only serve to highlight the great divide in our country on this topic, while pandering, like the web series, more also to global audiences.







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