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Bollywood's First Gay Rom-Com Fights India's Homophobia


Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Be Extra Careful About Marriage), coming out Friday, is challenging stigma with comedy.

Bollywood is releasing its first major romantic comedy with a lead gay character.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (translation: Be Extra Careful About Marriage) stars Ayushmann Khurrana as a young man fighting antigay stigma in his society and family.

Its trailer, which has accrued more than 50 million views, features a shirtless Khurrana wearing a rainbow flag as a cape and denouncing the "disease" of his father's homophobia. The clip also shows a flash of a kiss with a male romantic interest.

While the queer subject matter is conveyed with comedy, it was important for writer and director Hitesh Kewalya not to make fun of gay people, as has been the case historically in Indian films. The film is made "in such a way as to make it accessible, and humour seemed to be the natural choice to achieve that," Kewalya told Agence France-Presse.

In 2018, India's Supreme Court finally overturned its colonial-era ban on homosexuality, although LGBTQ people still face stigma and a lack of legal protections. Bhushan Kumar, the chairman of T-Series, which co-produced the film, said Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is poised to challenge these taboos, especially for older audiences.

"We have an interesting message -- of societal acceptance -- albeit in a much more fun manner so that it reaches more people and helps them re-evaluate their pre-conditioned thoughts," Saavdhan told AFP.

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is released Friday in India, and it remains to be seen how it will be received by the public. Fire, a 1996 film about a romantic relationship between Indian women, sparked protests and a national conversation about free speech and LGBTQ visibility.

Watch the trailer below.

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