Photo courtesy of campaignindia.in
Recently, I came across an advertisement for the film I Am Mumbai, which was directed by Abhinay Deo and was the first Indian win for the category of Film Craft at the Cannes Lion 2012.
The film, based on the newspaper Mumbai Mirror, is the platform for the people of Mumbai and India. It depicts the outrage of a student over the university’s ban of works by Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry, a mother’s anger over milk adulteration in India, children’s fury over the living conditions of Kavdas orphanage, and citizens’ discontent with the illegal political postering in their community.
A quick Google search of Mumbai Mirror shows that the newspaper reports on topics that are arguably taboo in Indian cultures: caste discrimination and the living condition of Dalits, hijra activism and the championing of gay/queer rights, just to name a few.
What was noteworthy for me about the paper was their lifestyle story of ‘Gay-friendly holiday destinations in India‘ and their willingness to tell the story of hijra activism in a serious and professional tone. What’s more, Mumbai Mirror has published an introductory article that demystifies India’s alternative gender identity, hijra.
While the same-sex movement seem to be moving at an unprecedented rate in the United States in the past five years, it seems to be that India is also making strides against homophobia with its legalization of sex between people of the same sex in 2009.
It is important to know that in the cultural realm, there has been exceptional progress for the gender variance movement in India. Hijra Guru and activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi was casted in Season 5 (2011-2012) of Bigg Boss, the Indian version of reality television show Big Brother. On the show, Laxmi became a viewer’s favourite and allowed viewers to see a person who identify as hijra express herself for the first time on television
If you’re interested in India’s gender variance movement, I highly recommend you watch Laxmi’s interview for Project BOLO. Project BOLO “meaning ‘Speak Up’… [offers] real life positive real-life role models by documenting LGBT persons—their lives, career, love and struggles. It is hoped that this will turn into a movement to empower LGBT persons across India.”
In the interview, Laxmi’s brilliant sense of humour and gentle yet resilient nature shines through. I hope that media democracy and community activism in India can be sustained and become one of the many drivers of liberation and human rights in Desi cultures.