Bollywood has finally been portraying gay characters in their movies in recent years, which is pretty impressive considering how homophobic South Asian society is -- the law criminalizing homosexual relations was struck down in 2018, but there's no legal recognition of same sex relationships, polls still show widespread disapproval, and many gay men and lesbians have entered into "lavender marriages" of convenience to stop pestering from their families and the culture. That's the topic of this film (released in cinemas in February, now on Netflix), as a gay cop (Rajkummar Rao) and a lesbian teacher (Bhumi Pednekar) agree to marry, but then their family's demand for children, and their respective love lives, create complications.
I have an affinity for Bollywood movies -- I love the extravagance and confess that South Asian men really do it for me -- so I've seen several of the recent attempts to portray gay characters and I think this is one of the best so far, and should be easily accessible to Western audiences -- yes, the running time is long (2 and 1/2 hours), but the script is packed with rich character detail; there are songs on the soundtrack, but only one production number, realistically set at a wedding; conforming to Indian censors, there's no kissing or sex, but the affection between two men or two women is effectively indicated. The sense of oppression-but-hope in a deeply homophobic society took me back to my own youth in the 80s in the US, and a coming out scene near the end of the film admittedly had me shedding a tear or two. It also made me realize how piss-poor American gay-themed films have been in the past decade -- this film is honestly one of the best efforts in this genre that I've seen in quite a few years regardless of national origin. And Rajkummar Rao is marvelous: magnetically sexy, uproariously funny, and deeply affecting.