Bollywood’s best known Director, Editor, Screenwriter and Producer Onir started a revolutionary conversation on Bakstage where he spoke from the heart about a subject that is often considered contentious by many and that most prefer to steer clear of – ‘LGBTQ in Bollywood‘.
Bakstage by FLYX is a fun casual space for people to interact with real people via audio conversations, and is available both on Android and iOS. Bakstage is also committed to bringing stories and conversations from the LGBTQ community in its special property called Bakstage Pride.
Onir, who has been a flag bearer when it comes to standing up for the rights of the LGBTQ community, is one of the first directors in Bollywood to explore their lives and bring them to light through the medium of his cinema. His film My Brother Nikhil was a bold yet realistic depiction of his effort to work towards demanding equal rights for queer people.
During this free flowing and heartfelt conversation, Onir spoke about his journey into the world of films and how he discovered his true calling while studying at school in Bhutan. He had been watching Shyam Benegal’s film Junoon, and the intricate visuals and rich colors had overwhelmed him and led him towards his love for cinema.
Onir also expressed his views about LGBTQ representation, and lamented the fact that there are very few films encompassing queer narratives in Bollywood. This, he believed, stemmed from the fact that our society still isn’t as inclusive as we want to believe it is, since if it were, more people would be speaking about their identity and not attempting to conceal it. He also added that there is a dearth of meaningful stories and an excess of stories told with the objective to excite the masses with stereotypical depictions of LGBTQ characters that exist solely to provide comic relief to the audience. He stressed upon the need for films that depict the identity of LGBTQ people with respect and dignity, and to start seeing them as individuals who have lives beyond their physicality. In his opinion, unless queer people are empowered to tell their own stories, their portrayal will only be restricted to stories that most people are comfortable watching and hearing. Films with queer characters, he emphasized, shouldn’t be made only with the intent to win brownie points for wokeness, but to make better human beings and create a better society for everyone with the power of cinema.
As a rapt audience of more than 100 people listened to him voice his views, he acknowledged the importance of audio platforms such as Bakstage in empowering people from all walks of life to speak their mind and start conversations about deeply rooted societal issues such as queer identity and child abuse. He also discussed the importance of raising awareness about civil rights such as partnership rights, property and healthcare for queer people to ensure their complete integration into functional society like any other heterosexual couples. He added that as citizens of the world’s largest democracy, we Indians must play our part in ensuring the equality of each individual, especially those who have been deprived of their dignity, ostracized by their communities or families and are living on the fringes of society.
On the subject of new projects, Onir revealed that during the first six months of the COVID lockdown, he organised a two-minute film festival, which received an overwhelming response with the creation of 450 films over the duration of 8 weeks. It was an experience he cherished, interacting with talented filmmakers and talking about what worked in films and what can be worked upon. In an exciting update, he also delved into a few details about the sequel he is writing for the movie I Am. The film, titled We Are, is a celebration of the Supreme Court’s verdict to decriminalize homosexuality but also highlights how they have a long way to go in terms of queer civil rights. He is also working on an Indo-Italian art documentary and will begin work on a web series very soon.
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