From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

The year was 1971. The movie was the legendary and tear-inducing story of ‘Anand’ by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, played to perfection by none other than the then superstar Rajesh Khanna. Anand was shown to be suffering from a rare form of cancer, known as Lymphoma of the intestine, which was incurable. Till the end of the movie, which was no doubt a cinematic brilliance, the only time we realise this, apart from the times when it was mentioned specifically, is when we see Khanna’s character die.

Cut to 2003. ‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’, where we see the character of Shah Rukh Khan, fixing the life of a broken Naina aka Preity Zinta. Aman is terminally-ill, who can only be cured by a heart transplant, but somehow he has passed on beyond that and death is the only end for him. Throughout the movie, he dances buoyantly, to the pumping tunes, ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘Maahi Ve’, pun intended. Again, we loved the movie and cried like babies in the climax when Aman dies, but once over the emotions, we can’t deny the fact that there was not much difference in the forty years that had passed since the last time we cried over this concept in ‘Anand’.

Just like Anand, we do not come to know of Aman’s condition which is concealed carefully under the garb of living your last moments to the full, and the only time we actually feel the fact that these guys are suffering is either when it is mentioned, or when in some moments they are shown to pant, are out of breath, and the time when they are finally on their death bed.

Let us just clarify that we have nothing against the movies. We have always been a die-hard fan, always in awe of the brilliance of emotions captured in the aforesaid two cinematic exemplars. But the way diseases were handled, it made us raise our eyebrows just a tad.

Cut to 2016, and we have ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ which too had the concept of cancer, wherein the character of Alizeh was seen suffering from the same towards the end. Though we would applaud that probably the first time in commercial cinema, a through and through candy floss director like Karan Johar took the dare of showing the effects of chemo by showing a bald Heroine. However, this was also a feeble start, as cancer doesn’t just take your hair, it breaks you physically too, even though the spirit and light in your eyes is alive. A terminally ill patient, probably in the last stage of this unfortunate disease doesn’t have plump cheeks, with a nude makeup that is on-point.

Another one which we quite could not digest, or overlooked due to the emotional quotient of the plot, was Aamir Khan’s portrayal of a man suffering from Anterograde Amnesia in blockbuster ‘Ghajini’. We remember him more as an enraged lover who had memory problems due to being bashed up while trying to save his fiancée, but the truth is we rarely looked into the disease that he was actually supposed to play.

However, it’s not like there have always been medical fact goof-ups. There have been actors who have played their disorders like a pro, so much so that for the duration of the movie you were so much in awe of the characters, that you forgot the stars playing those. Remember Rizwan Khan from ‘My Name Is Khan’, where Shah Rukh Khan nailed the character suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Everything, from his body language to expression to dialogue delivery was impeccable, and never did he slip, not even in a second of the movie.

Another fine example can be of Priyanka Chopra’s autistic character Jhilmil in ‘Barfi’, where she made us all cry with her beautiful acting skills. There was not a single dry eye in the theatres where the movie was screened, such was the conviction of portrayal. Amitabh Bachchan, the megastar, was unimpeachable when he played the role of a 12-year-old suffering from Progeria, in ‘Paa’.

Kalki as a girl suffering from cerebral palsy in ‘Margharita With a Straw’ too can be taken as an example of exemplary performance. Even the concept of Dyslexia was handled beautifully with ‘Taare Zameen Par’, and the then little Darsheel Zafari gave a performance which even seasoned senior actors could not have pulled off with such panache.

Bollywood still has to go a long way as far as portrayal of diseases in mainstream cinema is concerned, for looking good is a parameter which has to be ignored here, and we all know how good looks matter in our good looking movies. But we have the most talented actors, and we are pretty sure every once in a while we will be treated to such amazing performances, albeit sometimes with a pinch of unreal.

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Image Source - YouTube

Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.

Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.

Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
Image Source - Pinterest

“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders
Image Source - India Forums

The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders
Image Source - Pinterest

The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.

From ‘Anand’ to ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’; Bollywood’s portrayal of diseases and disorders
Image Source - giphy.com

And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.

While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..

Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.