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It makes you feel hopeful, empowered: Onir on the repeal of section 377

The director, who has been openly gay since he entered the film industry, hoped the decision would serve to push the industry to take up cudgels for the homosexual community. 

Shriram Iyengar

The landmark judgment of the Supreme Court decriminalizing homosexuality by repealing section 377 of the Indian Penal Code has been hailed by many in the film industry and in society at large.

Director Onir, whose films My Brother... Nikhil (2005) and I Am (2011) pushed the boundaries of the depiction of the LGBTQ community in Hindi cinema, said the decision filled him with 'hope'. 

Speaking to Cinestaan.com, the director said of the verdict, "I think it is overwhelming. It is not only for the LGBT community. As a citizen of India, you feel your faith affirmed in the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutional right of every citizen, denied to the LGBT community for so many years." 

Praising the decision of the judiciary to uphold the rights of the individual under the Constitution, the director said, "It makes you feel empowered. It makes you feel, 'Okay, this is just the beginning and not the end'. After this come civil rights and inclusion. I hope this will empower all of us who have been in this struggle, this journey, for a long time; and also to deal with the other burdens we have personally and professionally." 

Despite the film industry welcoming the Supreme Court's decision, Onir expressed some concern. The National award-winning director said his sexual orientation and subjects had often resulted in a loss of satellite rights for his films. 

"I hope someone calls me and says we want to show your film as a celebration of someone who has stood up for the cause of LGBT rights in the industry," he said. "From the day I joined the industry, I have been open. I hope to feel empowered. I don't know if I ever will (laughs), but that doesn't stop me. It has never stopped us from doing what we did," he said. 

Expressing thanks to actor-producer Sanjay Suri and actress Juhi Chawla, who produced and acted in Onir's My Brother... Nikhil, and I Am, he said, "I am thankful to all those, like Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla, who stood by me through the years. I am hoping the satellite channels empower me over and over again. The platforms coming up should empower us to tell the stories." 

Asked about the recent change in the industry, which saw films like Margarita With A Straw (2015), Aligarh (2016) and Kapoor & Sons (2016), Onir said the numbers belied the hype. "You know, if you really look, My Brother... Nikhil was 2005, I Am was 2011, Shab I did in 2017," he said. "I feel there are films, but they are very few. If you look at the size of the country, size of the community, the number of films we are making, how many films can you talk about that really address the issue?"

However, the director expressed the hope that the judgment would embolden more members from the community to step forward with their stories, and the film industry would welcome this.

"Hope people realize that yes, economic logistics is important, but at the same time there is something else, which the Supreme Court has shown," he said. "Everything is not a majoritarian point of view. There is also what one does for the progress and betterment of society. I feel that it is everybody's responsibility. It is the responsibility of the media, satellite channels, and various platforms to put out our stories."

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Section 377