Its promotional posters, placed throughout India, show two bare-chested men, eyes closed and necks strained, locked in a sexual embrace. And though the film does not come out until May, it is already being hailed as an iconoclastic cinematic break—or, more commonly, “Bollywood’s answer to Brokeback Mountain.”
Sanjay Sharma’s film Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun will, for the first time in Bollywood history, feature a gay kiss. The plot centres on a struggling model who moves to Mumbai in search of fame, and then begins a relationship with another man. In a country that only decriminalized homosexuality last year, it’s no surprise that the premise has some filmgoers squirming. (In fact, until recently, even heterosexual kisses—or “lip-locks”—were taboo, although that is changing.)
To be fair, Dunno Y will not show Bollywood’s first man-to-man kiss, per se. In 2008, the film Dostana portrayed two men pretending to be gay, in an effort to fool a young woman into living with them. At the end of the film, the two men kiss…as a punishment. And Bollywood has occasionally featured gay characters. But they are effeminate men whose roles are limited to comic relief.
And they are never cast in a sexual light. In contrast, Sharma insists that his film depicts a “normal relationship” between two unambiguously gay men. “The only thing I was particular about was that this character should not come across as a caricature or just as an object of mockery,” he told the Times of India.
India’s gay rights activists have been organizing, following the country’s repeal of Section 377 of the Penal Code, which declared homosexuality a crime “against nature.” Manvendra Singh, an Indian gay rights campaigner, worries that Dunno Y could cause “a backlash.” But he hopes that “it will go some way to sensitizing the public.” So far, reaction has been minimal—likely because, aside from the posters, Dunno Y has been kept under wraps. So Sharma remains hopeful that his film “will pass” Indian censors.