Dear Karan Johar, If You're Making A Movie On 'Gay Love', Can It Not Be Another Dostana?

An open letter to Karan Johar from a queer guy who prefers not watching his movies

Hello Karan,

Firstly, let me introduce myself. I grew up watching your first two movies on TV almost every other weekend. Did they have an effect on me? I wanted to be like Rani Mukerji’s characters upon growing up — confident, mature, who men (or then, boys) found attractive. So yeah, they did have an effect on me, and I used to flip through magazine sections of newspapers to read what you were up to. The most important words here — ‘used to’.

I hear you intend to make a film on “homosexual love story”, at least, that’s what you said on the World Economic Forum.

“Being a leading filmmaker, I can make movies on the subject. I would love to make a homosexual love story and would want to cast two leading actors in the film. I don’t have in mind specific names of the actors I want to cast in the film, but I surely want to make such a film.”

Am I excited that another LGBTQ+ movie will be in the offing? Yes! After all, it’s interesting to see the arc LGBTQ-themed movies in India have taken over the years — from movies like Bomgay, that barely found any takers when they released, to Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga turning a new leaf in mainstream Bollywood. Though knowing that you intend to wear the director’s hat on this, my excitement deflates like a car’s punctured tyre. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but not many of us in the LGBTQ+ community exactly like to put you, or your movies, on a pedestal.

Dostana Film Image for InUth

You see, when I was in school, a movie by the name of Dostana released. I was still figuring out my sexuality back then — my uninformed, teenage self in deep crisis over whether my attraction towards some of the boys in my class was a ‘phase’ or not. That’s what many of us queers, who are right now in their mid-20s, call growing up. But when that movie, which you produced, came out, I had crossed all my toes in the hope that what I had been experiencing would actually turn out to be momentary. Because of your movie, the word ‘gay’ had become synonymous with ‘ridiculous’. And I didn’t want to be mocked my entire life.

Though sense prevailed when I started seeing American and European movies where queer characters were not stereotyped, as they had been here. But you continued to revel in homophobia with Student of the Year, painting one stereotypical brush after next with Rishi Kapoor’s portrayal of a dean who happens to be closeted, using him as comic relief whenever the need arose. Because, after all, that’s a formula you tested long before in Kal Ho Na Ho when you sprinkled the movie a pinch of homophobia whenever Kantaben came on the screen, who shook with trepidation whenever Saif and Shah Rukh happened to be close.

rishi kapoor student of the year

Rishi Kapoor in Student of the Year (SOTY)

So, yeah, I’m kind of weary as to what you’d like to bring to the table next when you mentioned that you wanted to direct a “homosexual love story”. Not ‘a’ love story, a ‘homosexual’ one. As if, love needs differentiation.

The only time you did make something worthy was when you directed a short film for Bombay Talkies. The characters were not out of the ordinary — they were still quite repressed, but at least not stereotyped. Kapoor & Sons also had Fawad Khan playing a character who wasn’t flamboyant and didn’t deal in excesses, but was still gay.

So if you are going to show two men in love, can you please not do that through the lens of homophobia? Or reduce your protagonists to caricatures that might make another queer kid believe that they best remain in the closet?

Yours truly,

A queer guy who prefers not watching your movies anymore.