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Legally LGBT are now protected, but we have to change attitudes too: Hansal Mehta on section 377 verdict

Mehta, whose film Aligarh (2016) dealt with the struggles and ostracization of a gay professor, speaks about the impact of the landmark decision and why Indian cinema also needs to step away from stereotypes.

Shriram Iyengar

The National award for Aligarh (2016) was hailed as a landmark moment for Hindi cinema. Hansal Mehta's film portrayed the struggles, injustice and ostracization of a gay professor whose only crime was his sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court's decision on Thursday to strike down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, thus decriminalizing homosexuality, is a step in the right direction.

Speaking to Cinestaan.com, Mehta said that while the decision is welcome and a moment to rejoice, it is time now to work for changing societal attitudes. 

"Of course, it is a very important landmark and, you know, strikes down the majoritarian morality of society," said the director, referring to the court upholding the rights of an individual over the views of society. "Legally, yes, the community is protected, but society and its attitudes haven't changed. We have to work on societal attitudes, towards changing those attitudes." 

Mehta emphasized that Indian cinema has a key role to play in this. "In Aligarh, we tried in our own small way to sort of refute the stereotyping of the community," he said. "We need to get out of age-old stereotypes. Cinema is a part of society and popular thinking. This popular thinking leads to an understanding of individual choice." 

The director denied that the Hindi film industry is not welcoming of the LGBTQ community. He said, "The industry by itself has been very embracing and welcoming. It is quite an equal place. Caste, religion, sexual orientation have never been important.

"The industry has always respected personal choice. It is the representation of the marginalized community that has been sort of stereotyped, and needs to be avoided." 

With the court's decision, it might be time for Indian cinema to take this under advisement. 

Related topics

Section 377