New Delhi (AFP) – Valuable Indian director Onir resigned from his post and was inspired by a gay man who came out and wanted to record a film. But despite living in the most populous democracy in the world, the military banned it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist government, which has been accused of escalating attacks on censorship and dissent, has issued a statement saying that in 2020 filmmakers will need prior approval for any scripts on the Armed Forces.
One of the first Bollywood personalities to emerge as a homosexual was Onir, Major J. Surprised by Suresh’s story, he came out of the closet in 2020 and said, “Out! Prot! Release!”
“I am gay, I am very proud to be gay,” the former commander who served in Kashmir, one of India’s most difficult regions, wrote on his blog. He then gave an interview on national television, which went viral in this social conservative country.
From there, filmmaker Onir wrote “We”, telling stories of imaginary love between a transgender, lesbian, bisexual and a gay military man and a Kashmiri boy.
When he applied to the Ministry of Defense for a “no-objection certificate” that most studios, production companies and viewing sites would try to obtain as a precaution, it was rejected.
“They told me it was illegal to portray a soldier as a homosexual,” the filmmaker, who uses only one name, told AFP.
India has not made homosexuality a crime until 2018 by a Supreme Court ruling, but homosexuality and prostitution face up to 10 years in prison under martial law.
Deputy Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt confirmed in Parliament last week that the film was not approved “because it depicts a romantic relationship between a soldier and a local boy in Kashmir and overthrew the Indian Army and raised security concerns”.
He argued that pre-shooting recognition was unconstitutional or denied freedom of expression and that the government wanted to ensure that the armed forces were not “portrayed in a derogatory manner”.
But the 52-year-old Mumbai-based filmmaker says films about soldiers falling in love with women will never be rejected.
“Why does one’s sexuality become the barometer of patriotism or the ability to defend the nation?” He asks.
“Everyone seems to be offended by the little things, but what about the creativity and passion of the artists?” He added. “We are not important.”
Many of his films deal with homosexual issues, such as “My Brother Nikhil”, the story of Indian swimming champion Dominique D’Souza, who was arrested after being tested positive for HIV in the 1980s.
Another creation of his “I” with four stories of homosexual relationships was named India’s best film of the year, but never aired on satellite television.
Modi has summoned the army.
Some of the most popular war series and films in India recently are of a nationalist nature, featuring valiant soldiers, inspired by Modi’s action in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, “Uri: The Surgical Strike”.
The Prime Minister’s populist vision of a powerful Hindu-majority India has brought him many electoral victories and strong support among the armed forces.
But critics say it would be inappropriate in a democracy to give the military this control over how they are portrayed.
Hardosh Singh Paul, political editor of Caravan magazine, said, “This is problematic. How can the military determine how people are portrayed, viewed or criticized?”
Unlike what happened in neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh or Burma, the Indian armed forces have traditionally been removed from domestic politics.
But Paul said the Modi government had “repeatedly called on the military with its patriotism in domestic politics” and now senior commanders were “beginning to express political views.”
“I have a democratic coalition in which the military has the right to restrict freedom of expression: across the border, in Pakistan,” he explained. “But no one in the government wants this comparison,” he added.
© 2022 AFP
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