Valentine’s Day–the first major holiday after New Years, waking everyone from the lethargy of the holidays, so they can celebrate love. I love love, but I have never been a fan of the holiday. For a long time it was just the bitterness of singledom, I suppose. Somewhere along the line I think the hopeful romantic just died a slow death. Though, luckily enough I am not yet a cynical stone-cold person to not melt in the face of love. So this year, I found myself feeling a sappy in the face of this holiday that I polished off some 7 (or 17, who really knows) drinks and pined over someone who would never ever pay attention to me.
Maybe, it is the fact that half my friend list is married, getting married or riding the high of their recent proposal. I mean, love is really in the air and it is becoming really hard to ignore it. But, for most people, I think what made this particular February 14th special was the fact that it was the first one in our Post-Section 377 India. The first year in a long time, when everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, could celebrate their love. If that doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t know what will. So, we decided to round up some of the queer themed videos released in India this Valentine’s Day.
Netflix Presents: The Valentine’s Day Special
A metro ride, followed by a lunch date, a Halloween party featuring a Mike-Eleven cosplay, stolen kisses along a floral hallway, a couple moves in together, the fight, the make-up, they kiss under the moonlight and lean into each other. Directed by Reema Sengupta, the Valentine’s day ad, shows a gay couple, who bond over their love for TV shows– Stranger Things in particular. Considering that staying in bed and binging shows and movies is what most couples/ people do in general, it does seem like a far fetched idea for Netflix to capitalise on the idea. Set against the soulful song of “Everybody dances to Techno” by Aditi Dot, the ad plays out like a indie music video, complete with pastel colours, contrasted by the occasional pop of colours, and the attention to aesthetics. I found myself wondering somewhere between the numerous wide-tooth grins, if the entire cutsey relationship rhetoric was being overplayed. I concluded, no. I mean we have sat through several diabetes-inducing love stories before, we could sit through one more. It is love, after all. Nothing clinical about it.
A woman cynical of Valentine’s Day– I was already sold on the idea. She seemed to be annoyed with all the same things I thought was wrong about the day– the red roses, the declarations of love everywhere you turn, and the overwhelming weight of romance crushing down upon everyone. However, unlike me, she has a good enough reason to explain away her distaste for the holiday. For years now, she has been forced to hide away her love, and pretend like it was just any other Thursday while others got to shout about their love from rooftops. But, not anymore. Though, I found myself wondering, why Borosil? Are they taking a stand for the LGBTQ community or they just saw a gap that they could capitalise on? While the sentiment is heartwarming, and I really couldn’t find a flaw in representation, I couldn’t help but question their motives. Or, maybe should we simply take our wins and not dissect the context? I am not sure. It is still a lovely ad, either way.
Keshav Suri, known to some as the Lalit Hotel scion, and to many others as the man who filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court in April to quash Section 377, decided to commemorate the first ever Valentine’s Day in India where all kinds of love could truly be celebrated, through a beautiful short film titled, “Intezaar.” Produced for the It Gets Better India foundation started by Suri, the 3 minute-film tells us the story of an old man. A man old enough to be a grandfather. A man who probably lived his entire life in a closet, hoping for a day when he could celebrate his true self. He reads the news of the repeal of Section 377, and rushes to his room and hunts out an old black and white picture. Did they ever get to live together? Did they hide their love and pretend to have normal lives? Is the other man still alive? Some answers we will never get. But finally, the day has come when he no longer has to hide his love within the dust-filled suitcase. He can finally flaunt his love on his mantel. Probably my favourite from the barrage of love-themed videos, mostly because you have to be made out of stone to not be moved by this moment of genuine joy. If this doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will.
Quint Neon: Same Sex Couples Share What It’s Like to Be Gay in India
Three couples, one question– What is like to be gay in India? It is a loaded question. While we are celebrating the new air of inclusivity and progressiveness marked by the Section 377 verdict, we need to remember that the verdict has no impact on prejudices and ignorance, or plain homophobia. We still have a long way to go before we can truly celebrate inclusivity. Each couple, pin points at moments of their life where their identity has made things difficult for them. Ruth Chawngthu spoke about how while her mother celebrated the verdict with her, she was still unsure about coming out herself. Vikas Narula and Aditya Raj spoke about how they struggled to find a home for themselves. Aditya went on to spoke about how many of his friends cut him off after coming out. Lameeya Parween spoke about dealing with parents who can’t seem to come into terms with her sexual orientation. Are they happy? I suppose they are all just like any other couple, with their own share of problems, hang ups and trigger points, cushioned by the fact that they love each other. Why must we add on to their problems with ignorance and outdated ideas, one can wonder. I often do. Unfortunately, that is the world that we live in and in the light of the verdict, it would be easy for us to slip back and relax while we bask in the glory of this victory. But, we must remember to not get too comfortable, because we still have a long ways to go and this video proves just that.
One Love: Love Knows ‘NO GENDER’
At the start of this year, an Instagram artist, Noor, who goes by the handle artsypeach, put up a story asking her audience what was the one thing that they wanted to accomplish this year. A few hours later she wrote about how so many people had responded to her question saying that they hoped to come out to their family and friends. I remember thinking that so many Indians must have been thinking the same with the hope that the landmark judgment would have brought about some level of acceptance. Imagine having to live with the constant fear that being who you are will bring shame and disappointment to your family. I suppose, most people who come to this website might find that to be an all too familiar feeling. It is why people stay in the closet for years together. In this video, Dharti and Shubhalaxmi, a lesbian couple, talk about finding each other, falling in love and the struggles of their identity– from the deep sense of shame and guilt to finally learning to accept themselves for who they are. #OneLove is a show that focuses on different couples who have come together and survived against all odds and it is only fitting that they would choose to portray a lesbian couple on a Valentine’s Day special.
Radio Mirchi: Love is Love
In this 54-second clip RJ Yogi of Radio Mirchi performs a shayari on what exactly Section 377 is. Against the sepia tone and the melody of the piano, Yogi’s words seem to assume a much more powerful tone. Ultimately, he seems to be saying the same thing I have said in six different ways already– that the Section 377 verdict does not end the struggles of the community. Homophobia and ignorance runs rampant. Hopefully, not for long.
Every love story must be celebrated– not a slogan I would get behind, but mostly because I think people make too much fuss about love, anyway. However, what I loved about the video was how it chose to celebrate love– in its everyday, simple actions like playing cards, or a trip down the memory lane or a long walk holding hands. We all love grand gestures, but ultimately everyone one of us, even the big cynical me, we seek love for that comfort of being able to feel like you are loved and that you love someone even in the middle of a seemingly inane, mundane moment. They saw a series of couples–old, young, new, gay– all simply basking their love, and trying to capture the little moments that make them, them.