Reviews

Rainbow Rishta: Queer Love In Focus

The series doesn't just paint a nuanced picture of queer relations; it also aptly portrays the crucial need for the right of marriage within the LGBTQ+ community, at a time when the Supreme Court denied them legal rights.

The wholesome docuseries ‘Rainbow Rishta’ takes viewers on a journey into a space where discussions revolve around queerness, queer love, and the challenges that the community inherits and fights against. It is an intriguing attempt to convey to the audience that queer love transcends physical intimacy and is far more complex than commonly perceived. The series raises the question of what makes queer love more intricate than the heteronormative understanding of love. Simultaneously, it compels us to question whether what is portrayed in the series truly encapsulates the essence of queer love. Does the end goal of queer love also align with the conventional heteronormative institution of marriage? And is queer love confined to the monogamous understanding of love involving two individuals, similar to the heteronormative model?

Jaydeep Sarkar’s ‘Rainbow Rishta’ delves into the everyday challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, addressing issues such as creating their own space, how their loved ones see their selves, the issues in dating within the community, and the traumas experienced while looking for love, something that many have been missing out on since childhood. All these things are somewhat coated with the external layer of societal expectations, making them more complex than they need to be. The struggles they go through in dealing with these issues have been portrayed in the series with great nuance, and it is commendable that Director Sarkar is trying to start a conversation on queer love.

Queer people have always been careful when loving someone because society has issues with them being in love. They must be cautious to ensure that the people around them remain at ease with their presence and their understanding of love. However, queer love is not solely about society; it is also about the individuals involved, their choices, and their worldview. Sarkar aptly shows this in the stories of Daniella and Joel, as well as Soham and Suresh. The series emphasises that, apart from challenging societal expectations, they are also dealing with the individual differences that couples have. These differences make them very human and show us that queer love is not always about being lovey-dovey.

It’s also interesting how Sarkar crafts a story about a couple struggling to find a space for themselves, both metaphorically and literally. The harsh rejection that the couple in Guwahati (Aneez and Sanam) faced while searching for a place to move into is a very real problem that the people from the queer community face. The way they look and their identity being known to others are reasons they have to compromise on certain aspects of their desired space. Sarkar’s deliberate attempt to depict the meeting of ‘Xomonnoy’ (a queer intersectional feminist group) is also an interesting decision because it may give the space the recognition it deserves and open up opportunities for queer individuals to learn about it. It is as if, in the quest for space within the story, Sarkar attempts to provide a space for many queer people who seek a platform to talk and be heard.

Though Sarkar’s attempts cannot be discouraged or disregarded, it is also important to acknowledge that queer love goes beyond the confinement of monogamous relationships. There exists a grey area where there is not always a sweet involvement of two individuals as shown in the series, but rather, it is messy. Queer love is also about an asexual person trying to figure out love in a society where love is synonymous with sex. Simultaneously, it involves people questioning and trying to figure out if it is okay to seek love from different individuals at a single point of time. Because, again what we are culturally conditioned to, the heteronormative understanding has always been that one needs to be loyal and stick to their partner in front of society, regardless of any discreet involvement with others. So, queer love does challenge conventional understanding of love and companionship, and it is important to acknowledge the existence of these kinds of love as well. It was a relatively safe exploration of queer love by Sarkar, where he didn’t dive too deep into the complex aspects of it.

One more thing that stands out prominently about the series is the strategic use of the poster by the marketing team. By featuring Trinetra, an already established trans actor and social media influencer, in the limelight, the team skillfully capitalises on the actor’s existing fame to draw attention. However, the interesting point is that it is Danielle’s story which was more or less center of the series, a character that I believe could use more spotlight. This deliberate choice to foreground Trinetra’s image can be seen as a smart PR move. It leverages the face value of a known actor to create intrigue and attract audiences. It’s not necessarily a moral judgement but rather a calculated decision on how to market their art effectively. It shows creators’ shrewd understanding of the industry and audience dynamics, at the same time, their ability to navigate the intricacies of promotion while ensuring the series gains the attention it deserves.

The series doesn’t just paint a nuanced picture of queer relations; it also aptly portrays the crucial need for the right of marriage within the LGBTQ+ community, at a time when the Supreme Court denied them legal rights. While nobody should be deprived of universal rights like marriage, I believe the queer struggle goes beyond what marriage brings to the table. Queer individuals need to express their solidarity and presence in society through their art and voices, encouraging cis-het people to recognize them and start conversations together about the issues that queer individuals face.

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Film and theatre enthusiast Sanjib Kalita is currently pursuing Post-graduation in History from Hindu College, University of Delhi. His interest lies in the intersection of film and gender, examining them through the lens of history while taking society and the economy into account.
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