Representation of LGBTIQ in Nepali Media

Kathmandu (Pahichan) March 18 – I was binge watching Amazon Prime’s new show “Made in Heaven”. The lead of the show Karan Mehra (played by Arjun Mathur) is a wedding planner who is a homosexual. The series was quite refreshing because the makers showed his sexual orientation in a natural and nuanced way and not normally how gay men are stereotypically represented.

The discourse of how the LGBTIQ community is represented in the media has always been a matter of concern. The media either act like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand by ignoring their existence or present an outlandish portrayal.

The gay men are either wearing shiny, glittery clothes or lusting over straight men. The lesbians wear shirt and trousers and apparently hate make-up. The bisexual people apparently don’t exist for them and trans people are meant for comic relief.

Currently, Nepali cinema is in a transitional phase where filmmakers are making an effort to bring diverse stories. However, one thing it still needs to improve is the representation of LGBTIQ community.

Though we have seen progressive movies like “Highway” and “Soongava”, and the recent web series “Singha Durbar” where characters from LGBTIQ community had significant roles, the majority of Nepali media still stigmatise homosexuality and are far behind a pragmatic representation.

The gay men in Nepali media are shown as hypersexual predators who always lay their eyes on straight men and crack double meaning jokes. Women are not the only one who suffer from the notions of toxic masculinity in the cinema. The gay men are treated like trash and made fun of to showcase the masculinity of heroes who are only attracted to women.

Jharana Thapa’s “Ae Mero Hajur 2” used the same trope that has been practised for ages. Ajashra Dhungana played Sameer, brother of the woman protagonist in the movie. He is a gay man who always wears pink clothes. Though the makers have tried to incite empathy towards his character, the way he has been portrayed cannot be discounted.

A scene from “Ae Mero Hajur 2”. Sameer played by Ajashra Dhungana (right) is seen seducing Jay, played by Salon Basnet. Photo: Buddha Subba Digital, YouTube

Whenever his character appears on the screen, a goatish score plays in the background to show that for him straight men are like KFC chicken One can never resist and will grab it when an opportunity appears.

Like how Michel Foucault pointed that the people in power always tell what is normal and what is abnormal, in the movie, heterosexual people (the ones who are in power) narrate that homosexuality is ‘abnormal’ and they have been deceived by nature.

Dhungana who played Sameer in the movie said that the actors do what public demands. “We lack diverse writers in the industry. The writers follow the acceptable norms. They should be motivated to take risks and write realistic characters,” he added.

Following the trend of stereotypical representation, 2018’s “Timi Sanga” featuring Samragyee RL Shah, Najir Husen and Aakash Shrestha used the minority as comic relief.

Anupam Shrestha featuring in a song from the movie “Timi Sanga”. Photo: Highlights Nepal, YouTube

The non-cisgender character played by Anupam Shrestha is not only used as a prop but like almost every LGBTIQ character that has been presented on the screen, the word “consent” has no value. For the writers, it seems, every straight man looks like Fawad Khan and the gay men can do anything to ‘have’ them.

“It’s about tolerance and acceptance. We just have to treat minorities like how we treat any other straight people and write characters in the same way,” says Subarna Thapa, the director of “Soongava”, country’s first mainstream movie that featured a same-sex love story. He stressed on the need for writers to be more gender sensitive and use realistic approaches while writing stories.

In the age of digital revolution, the culture of web-series is steadily emerging. Nepali movie makers too are  jumping on the bandwagon and are creating contents on YouTube. But the legacy of stereotypes still continues.

Nitin Chand’s “Hamro High School” is a prime example. Bunny Upreti, a homosexual character from the series is a sidekick, who always sways his hips when he walks and like how rabbits quickly run to bite the carrots when they see it, he also shows his keenness to bite straight men.

But digital space is not that disappointing. “Singha Durbar” a web-series starring Gauri Malla, created a stir not only for being the first Nepali show that portrayed a female prime minister but also how it maturely handled LGBTIQ issues.

Praween Khatiwada in an episode of the first season of “Singha Durbar”. Photo: Search for Common Ground, YouTube

Bishwas Bishwokarma, a character portrayed by Praween Khatiwada, was the press advisor to the Prime Minister on the show and his sexual orientation was not the only medium of describing him. He was treated like a normal human being who had a career, passion, and dedication, and happened to love someone of the same-sex.

We have reached a stage where cinema is evolving. Gone are those days when people used to enjoy drone shots and the actors dancing on Mustang and Tilicho. We now need movies that serve our appetite for watching meaningful contents.

LGBTIQ people are normal people who just have a different preference and it’s high time that media and society stop stereotyping them and create a platform where we can understand them better.

Source : the himalayan times