Pride Month: Actors who have portrayed LGBT parts onscreen hail the community, say there’s so much to learn from them

After years of mockery and stereotypical representation of the LGBTQI+ community onscreen, there are some OTT projects — films as well as series — that have shown a deeper understanding of the subject and depicted homosexual characters, their lives, challenges, relationships with a sensitive lens. As we are celebrating Pride Month, we talk to actors who dive into reference points, personal journeys and learnings that helped them ace portrayals of queer characters with empathy and realism on screen.
Actors Chayan Chopra and Chintan Rachchh as Dhruv and Faruq in web show Class.

Chintan Rachchh as Faruq in Class

Muslim, gay and a drug peddler — would have been the ultimate combination to receive hate. But, the response was the exact opposite. Faruq formed an instant connection with the audience and that’s because the show never milked the fact that he is from a particular religion or is gay. Essentially, it’s just a love story (between Dhruv and Faruq), and that remained the core. We never shifted the focus on their difference of religion or class bias. My character had a real impact on people and I got messages from people who said they’ve never seen this kind of representation before for an Indian TV series. That, for me, is a bigger feat than 10 million people watching the show for entertainment purpose.

Chayan Chopra as Dhruv in Class

Presenting homosexual relationships onscreen has to be done with a lot of sensitivity without making any character look like an outcast, so I had my own reference points in films such as Moonlight (2016) and Call Me By Your Name (2017). While it’s sad that LGBTQI+ community has been greatly marginalised, sexuality, in general, also need not be given so much importance. I feel Indian cinema hasn’t done a great job of telling queer stories in a sensitive way. Even in our show, the narrative is broadly about these two people in love, and again the aspect of sexuality, religion, and class was brought on by society, not by themselves. It’s not a show about a person experimenting with his sexuality, but several other aspects and that’s what I felt struck the right chord with viewers. We as actors can create an illusion of reality and I hope I did that to some extent.

Kubbra Sait as Kukoo in Sacred Games

My character wasn’t consciously written to break any stigma, but it was so perfectly aligned with the story. And then the creators, very forward-thinking audiences, and the removal of section 377, all played a crucial role in the fair representation of the LGBTQI+ community. Also, I think the minute you start accepting and stop resisting what you don’t understand, having an open mind and heart is so important to play a queer successfully. No character is entirely dependent on their gender, the job they do, the life they lead, or the relationship they share (with other people). There are certain parts of every story that are important to be told. When you truly understand the reasoning and motivation of your character, you give it all the love that you have inside you to bring the character to life. I feel the queer community introduce us to colours of joy and pride and we have to learn to evolve with them and celebrate them.

Lakshvir Saran as Avinash in The Fame Game

I looked at my character as this teenage boy having troubles expressing himself to his family and friends, dropping out of college, and having communication issues with his parents. I didn’t really focus on his sexuality as the defining attribute and that’s what is most important. At one point, I even refused to give in to the stereotypical representation of how a gay person would behave like. People are always in different stages of understanding and expressing themselves, every person has a path of their own, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Hearing multiple experiences of people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality, I realised there was a common angst that was shared by everyone and some sort of pressure articulating who we are, and what we are, and that angst played a guiding factor throughout the time I essayed this character

Devyani Shorey as Namrata in Mismatched

I had to psychologically understand the perspective and mindset of young girls from a town like Jaipur, who face the stigma of being a closeted person and difficulties while coming out. My character was a simple college girl, on the path to discovering herself, facing a lot of challenges but ultimately accepting herself. My sexual orientation was irrelevant at that point. But what the show and my character showcases is that the process of coming out and self-expression in the community is a very lonely process, and I portrayed her in the most authentic way I could. It was not a caricature of a lesbian girl — with coloured hair, multiple piercing or funky nails. We rejected all these stereotypes, and it was a heartwarming experience.

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