Queer cinema has emerged as a transformative force over the past five decades, challenging norms and amplifying LGBTQIA+ voices within the cinematic landscape. This movement, born out of a desire to cultivate mainstream cinema while spotlighting the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community, defies conventions and champions authenticity. Queer cinema encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender identities, offering a subversive take on sexuality that transcends traditional norms. At its core, queer cinema rejects heteronormativity, paving the way for narratives that defy societal conventions and explore the complexities of identity, love, and acceptance. As the movement continues to evolve, it serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring impact of diverse storytelling in reshaping perceptions and fostering empathy within a more inclusive cinematic landscape.
In Indian cinema, the portrayal of queer individuals has begun to surface with varying degrees of depth and authenticity. Bollywood films like Shelly Chopra Dhar’s Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga, Tollywood films like Sanjoy Nag’s Memories in March, and Tamil movies like 90ml and Kattumaram sensitively explore the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ characters within the context of Indian society. These narratives often revolve around the struggle for acceptance.
However, in spite of a growing awareness of queer identities, mainstream cinema frequently relegates queer characters to the role of plot devices, leaving them dependent on the support or approval of non-queer individuals. For example, in Love Panna Uttranum, directed by Vignesh Shivan, a potential lesbian pair is set up, first for pathos and later as farce— a distinct example of 'queerbaiting'. This is the term used for the cinematic marketing ploy where directors allude to same-sex romance but do not actually depict it, in order to avoid alienating heterosexual audiences.
Even in this modern day and age, this trend persists despite the potential of the Indian film industry to create narratives that transcend societal norms and celebrate the authenticity of queer lives — where queer lives constitute the thematic foundation of the film. The idea is for more filmmakers to realize that not all films must cater to straight society and that queer romance and experiences can stand independently, without external validation.
With this context in mind, I would like to introduce you to a wonderful opportunity called QueerFrames Screenwriting Lab, an initiative to support LGBTQIA+ storytellers in India with the tools, resources and networks needed to bolster their careers, and tell stories that can drive meaningful change and contribute to fresh queer narratives from across the country. The initiative seeks to guide, facilitate and fund ten filmmakers/writers from the Indian queer community. It is going to provide a carefully curated curriculum for queer individuals who are passionate about screenwriting. It will provide masterclasses by eminent Bollywood filmmakers such as Neeraj Ghaywan, Gazal Dhaliwal, Onir and Faraz Arif Ansari, among others. The selected participants will receive individual mentorship, creative guidance and professional development support. There will be no remuneration charged from the participants as the idea behind this is not a monetary gain but rather a social cause to proliferate and amplify queer voices. The last date for registration is the 13th of August 2023.
The QueerFrames Screenwriting Lab is an initiative by the Queer Muslim Project and Netflix India. While the most popular global streaming platform needs no introduction, some of you may not have heard about the Queer Muslim Project. It stands at the intersection of LGBTQIA+ communities and Muslim cultures, aiming to bridge dialogue and awareness regarding gender, sexuality, and religion, particularly within the South Asian context. Serving as a dynamic digital and cultural platform, it challenges stereotypes, nurtures marginalized voices, and empowers queer individuals to reclaim their narratives. Rooted in art, culture, media, and storytelling, the project seeks to transform harmful norms and misrepresentations.