Gay Bollywood movie challenges censors

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The new Bollywood film ?Don't Know Why? is scheduled for release in May, but it's already making waves across the country. The film features the industry's first gay male kiss. Anchor Katy Clark finds out more from correspondent Harshita Kohli, who's in Mumbai.

KATY CLARK: Strict moral codes are not the stuff of Bollywood. India's movie industry is known for its romantic if predictable plots. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love and they dance happily most of the time. Well, a new Bollywood movie is shaking up that predictable image. Correspondent Harshita Kohli is in Mumbai. She says the film "Don't Ask Why" which isn't in theaters yet adds a twist to the traditional story line.

HARSHITA KOHLI: It's about a man who comes into the big city. He's trying to make his life here. Along the way he meets somebody, and that person just happens to be another man.

CLARK: Some have called it Bollywood's answer to Brokeback Mountain. Is that a fair comparison?

KOHLI: It does not have huge directors, you know, big production houses or it does not have huge actors doing this. If you were to see a huge A-list actor do this role, what that would mean is that it is ? You know, in India these actors are treated almost as gods. So you're having somebody whom you look up to as a role model taking a stand. Because we almost look at it is that if you were doing the role, which deals with homosexuality and if you're playing with the actor, that means you're okay with it. You're okay with homosexuality, and you support it. So yes, I think to an extent you can compare it to Brokeback Mountain. The big, big difference is that Brokeback Mountain had a huge director behind it. It had two huge actors as the lead roles in the movie. In this case, that's not the thing. I think the only thing that you could compare it to is the fact that yes there is an element of homosexuality in both the movies.

CLARK: An element of actually rather an explicit relationship between two gay men?

KOHLI: Absolutely. Sometimes in our movies here we will almost see the homosexuality being reflected more in like a comic way. You know, maybe a tongue-in-cheek remark. Maybe somewhat of a [INDISCERNIBLE]. This time, and don't know why, they're actually trying to show you, you know, how a gay relationship works, how it functions, how it difficult it may be. And in doing that, they have been quite explicit. You know, I believe there is a full on kiss in the movie. There is a complete love making scene. I've been told there's some amount of action in a bath tub as well.

CLARK: Okay, we'll leave it at that. So you're saying that Bollywood has had gay characters in films before but they haven't been treated very seriously?

KOHLI: No, they haven't been. You know, sometimes they've just been about certain mannerisms. I think the most recent film that dealt with a certain amount of homosexuality in a very small way was a movie called Dostana. It was out of a production house by one of the biggest directors in this country, Karan Johar, who is currently in the news for another movie called, "My Name is Khan." You know, the actors have been all over America for that movie. But, yes, coming back to Dostana, that was more about two straight men pretending to be gay because of certain conditions in the movie. You know, it was a comedy movie. Again, you know, it has dealt with homosexuality, but without really dealing with it.

CLARK: Now, "Don't Know Why" isn't due out for another few months, but it's getting a lot of attention. I'm wondering how religious conservatives in India are reacting to the build up to the film?

KOHLI: I think the big question is going to come up is when it gets passed through the Censor Board, how much will the Censor Board leave in the movie? How much will the director agree to leave in the movie, if he is not ready to edit it? Will he go with an adults only certificate? You know, that means half of your audience is going to stay out of the theaters and not see a movie. Because you have to realize in India a Friday night, a Saturday night is all about families going out. So you'll have the parents accompanied by their children going to watch movies. So, you know, you have to look at an audience that may start from say 6 and go up to 60.

CLARK: Our listeners might remember that an Indian high court ruling overturned a law against homosexuality in India last year. Has that led to gays being more visible in Indian media, not just movies but across the board since then?

KOHLI: I think yes when this law was overturned it did give a lot of people in this society in India a chance to come out and be open about themselves. It was a great move. You will not see gays overnight displaying their sexuality, displaying their choices because at the end of the day our society is still very, very conservative. We have not yet accepted the fact that two men or two women have as much a right to live as a man and woman. Some people thing it's right. Some people think it's wrong. So yes, that's always open for discussion and it does not matter which court, you know, says it's all right or says it's not all right. People will still to a certain extent have to hold back and not be very open about it.

CLARK: Correspondent Harshita Kohli joined us from Mumbai. Great to hear from you. Thanks.