[Reader-list] Film review

Asthana, Rahul Rahul.Asthana at CIBC.com
Tue Jun 15 19:29:09 IST 2004

"This is an urgent and serious matter."
Opposition for this piece of crap?
Let the front benchers have their titillation and it die a natural death. 
Let there be no exceptions to the freedom of expression.
If someone makes an opinion based on this movie they deserve it.If someone
lets their lives be affected by such people, they deserve that too.

-----Original Message-----
From: reader-list-bounces at sarai.net
[mailto:reader-list-bounces at sarai.net]On Behalf Of Shveta Sarda
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2004 5:35 AM
Cc: reader-list at sarai.net
Subject: Re: [Reader-list] Film review


Girlfriend Protest
"Humjinsi Cluster" <humjinsi at hotmail.com>

Dear all,

  This is an urgent and serious matter. Tejal and Sheba saw the premier 
of the film ‘Girl Friend’ yesterday. The film portrays Isha Koppikar as 
a sexually abused, violent, obsessive, killer, psychopath lesbian. The 
film claims to address the issue of ‘lesbianism’ but operates from a 
totally homophobic, hetero- patriarchal viewpoint. It will do 
unspeakable damage for the movement and simply put, it is downright 
dangerous for those of us trying to survive in an already hateful world. 
  The movie tears away the anonymity of lesbian existence; the word 
lesbian is actually used in the film and the image created is a ghastly 
and revolting one. The character is not a lesbian, she is a woman 
hunter, a man hater, there are so many things in the film that are 
absolutely despicable that one cannot even begin to describe them.

The absolute folly is that this movie is going to show in movie theatres 
all across the country. So while the film capitalizes on the lesbian 
angle (there is even a sleazy bedroom scene) the axe comes down so fast 
and so hard on the lesbian (she dies a gruesome death, which is 
obviously retribution) that there is not even a sliver of doubt. Women 
who hate men become lesbians- who are bloodthirsty, abusive killer- who 
finally bring on their own annihilation.

We have to take a stand and make a statement against this film and we 
have to come up with strategies to make a strong protest. We urge all of 
you to make time and suffer through the film this weekend so that we are 
well aware of what we are up against.

Tejal has reviewed this film for MID-DAY. What she has to say and that 
reflects how the rest of us feel as well, is written below. Do go 
through it as well.

We urge everyone to come together. We will continue posting minutes of 
every meeting and action taken.

In Solidarity,

Shruti, Tejal, Sheba, Aditi

 From the fire into the frying pan

Dear Mr. Karan Razdan (director of Girlfriend),

This was supposed to be a film review. If the Shiva Sena and the Bajrang 
Dal go on a rampage yet again, to protest your film ‘Girlfriend’, ask 
for the film to be banned or sent back to the censor board, I might even 
forgive you.

But I know, that six years after Deepa Mehta’s film ‘Fire’ was released, 
the right wing will see no reason to protest your film because your 
portrayal of a lesbian as ‘a psychopath, sexually abused, man hating, 
murderer and killer’ fits just fine into their hetero-patriarchal agenda 
of portraying lesbians & gays as freaks, abnormal and as people who must 
die at the end of the film, so they are aptly punished for their 
unnatural existence.

On the out set, it must be stated that the ‘Lesbian’ issue is a hot 
topic; it attracts audiences, creates a curiosity and definitely impacts 
the box office collections. I mean, if you were to tell me that you made 
this film because you care so much about lesbians and the issues 
affecting them, that you wanted to bring this issue into the public 
realm, into every Indian household, surely you mean it as a 
devastatingly, nasty joke!

Your film is a presentation of the worst possible misnomers (I 
consciously refrain from using the word ‘stereotype’) about anyone who 
may be attracted to a person of the same gender. The male, macho but 
normal (read heterosexual) hero has no qualms about playing a 
hyper-exaggerated, sissy, gay man when he needs to seduce the simple 
minded, generous at heart, ‘one-night’ lesbian, but basically reformed, 
heterosexual heroine, Amrita Arora. The straight heroine who is being 
continuously misled by the lesbian villain must be saved by the 
good-boy-hero. In the end, values of heterosexual love, marriage and 
‘normal’ families must be upheld. The character of Tanya, acted by Isha 
Koppikar is nothing short of a ‘lesbian animal’ aided as it is by the 
background score to help us see her as a wild, almost cannibalistic 
man-eating/man-hating woman who dares to behave like a man, a Sahela. 
All this of course is explained by the simple truth that she was 
sexually abused as a child simultaneously implying that what makes women 
‘this way’ is possibly, abuse at the hands of men!

After watching a film like this, it is impossible for anyone to think of 
‘women who love women’ as normal human beings with two hands and two 
feet, who may be a friend, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a neighbour, a 
grand mother and least of all a caring lover.

It must be pointed out that under the section 377 of the Indian Penal 
Code, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are looked upon 
as/considered criminals, existing against the order of nature. Hey! and 
if you thought it was just about ‘those guys & their lifestyles’, let me 
remind you that anytime you have non peno-viginal penetrative sex, you 
are as much of a criminal and can be put in the prison for 7 years or 
heavily fined or both.

Mr. Razdan, the next time you say that you are taking a neutral position 
in this film and portraying the case of just one lesbian, let me remind 
you precisely, that the fiction you are choosing is a cleverly developed 
and thought out story that carries a clear message. This message is a 
dangerous and retrogressive one. It is a message that endangers the life 
of any woman who may look or behave boyish, any woman who chooses to 
experiment with her sexuality, and any woman who asserts her right to 
different choices, even those women who are good friends and hold hands 
when they walk down the street.

Welcome to the world of blatant hate crimes based on your sexual and 
gender orientation!

As men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, films like these take us 
many steps backwards. More than two decades of work done by Lesbian, 
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender groups, feminists groups, human rights 
groups, women’s groups and progressive artists groups, is going to 
suffer as this film is commercially released in every part of India from 
small towns to big cities.

Every time I hear of another lesbian suicide, another girl who hanged 
herself for being teased about her ‘best’ friend, another hijra woman 
raped in police custody, another woman sent for shock treatment and 
aversion therapy to cure her of her homosexuality, another couple put 
under house arrest by their parents when they find out about their 
same-sex love, I will think of this film and I will be reminded of the 
power that Bollywood wields in creating a mass consciousness of one sort 
or the other. In this case, it will be a conscious, articulated, homophobia.

Thank-you very much Mr. Razdan, but we, as progressive citizens are not 
interested in lip-service. I can assure you of one thing: the homosexual 
community in this country would much rather live in quiet anonymity than 
be mis-represented in such a ghastly, contorted fashion.  Even a little 
bit of research on your part would have revealed that there are at least 
three active lesbian and bisexual women’s groups in Bombay city alone 
and hundreds of ‘women who love women’ leading their lives openly and 
happily but that’s only possible when one makes a film on a hot issue 
(like lesbianism is in India) when you foresee beyond profits and 
publicity and see, real lives and real people who will live the 
consequences of your doing.

It’s time that we stopped separating the issues that films address and 
their impact on the audience/citizen within a given socio-political 
context/environment. It is also high time that we stand in protest 
against any film that causes damage to the rights of any minority group.

Tejal Shah
(The writer is a visual artist and the co-founder, organiser and curator 
of Larzish
tremors of a revolution, International Film festival of 
Sexuality & Gender Plurality, India since 2003)

abhijeet tamhane wrote:
> I presume the the poster of this mail is irked by equating women's
> groups' protest with the right-wing politics.
> But in the post, is it the right-wing stance that compells to call the
> film "rubbish", without watching it? One does not know why any group
> should oppose lesbianism PER SE. Is it a RIGHT-WING women's group that
> prostested against the film?
> As far as "rubbish" goes, isn't any Karan Johar film "rubbish"?
> -- abhijeet tamhane
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: vidya shah <vidyashah at hotmail.com>
> Date: Tue, 15 Jun 2004 07:20:07 +0000
> Subject: [Reader-list] Film review
> To: reader-list at sarai.net
> Review of the competely regressive pronographic flick on "lesbianim"
> As in this review, it gets a bit problematic when the press clubs two
> sets of protests together - activists from the right wing and the
> women's groups definitely have different reasons for which they
> protest against this kind of rubbish!
>  'Girlfriend' causes India storm **
> A new film about lesbians in India is criticised by Hindu hardliners
> and women's groups.
> < http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/entertainment/3805905.stm >
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