A current Bollywood smash hit features two humpy stars playing gay… well, playing straights playing gay. Dostana (meaning Friendship in Hindi), starring John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan, is a breezy musical remake of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Two friends pretend to be gay in order to secure an apartment in Miami — the landlord wants no straight men in the building because his beautiful daughter Neha (played by Priyanka Chopra) lives there too. Both boys fall for Neha, simultaneously trying to woo her — without giving up the gay ploy — and disrupting her burgeoning romance with a third man.
While the jury is still out over whether the movie reinforces negative stereotypes or advances the cause of gay visibility, many gay Indians love it. Homosexuality is illegal in the country of 1.1 billion, with punishment of up to 10 years in prison. The first Indian film to explicitly tackle homosexuality, Fire by Canadian director Deepa Mehta, was met by rampaging protesters in 1998.
For his part, Bachchan says he’s happy to have become a gay standard bearer. “I think homosexuals are as human as anyone else,” Bachchan told the Indo-Asian News Service. “It’s a matter of great pride if I’m their icon.”
Tarun Manuskhani’s two-and-a-half-hour comedy (with English subtitles) has been playing in suburban theatres around Toronto these last few weeks; check Torontoplus.ca.