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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
'Girlfriend' causes India storm
By Jayshree Bajoria
BBC correspondent in Bombay

Scene from 'Girlfriend'
The film has been criticised by numerous groups
Hindu hardliners have destroyed posters of a recent Bollywood film about lesbians, called Girlfriend.

The protesters say that the film runs against Indian culture.

The movie has also upset women's groups who say it is a "pornographic and stereotypical portrayal" of a lesbian relationship.

Activists from the right wing Shiv Sena party have stopped screenings in the cities of Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi and Varanasi, labelling it as "regressive."

'Male pleasure'

An activist with the party's youth wing said similar protests were staged five years ago against the film Fire which also portrayed lesbianism in India.

Women's groups say that the latest film - about jealousy and hidden desire coming between two women when one of them finds a boyfriend - is "highly regressive."

It will make lives for homosexuals even more difficult
Tejal Shah, Forum Against Oppression of Women

A member of a women's organisation, Forum Against Oppression of Women (FAOW), Tejal Shah said that Girlfriend is pornographic and has been made entirely to give pleasure to heterosexual males.

"All the negative popular myths about lesbians [have] been woven into the storyline, and I think it will antagonise society even further," she said.

As the lesbian character in Girlfriend becomes more possessive about her partner, she also becomes more psychopathic as the film reaches its conclusion.

The film's director, Karan Razdan, said the movie was about a woman who becomes a lesbian due to her circumstances rather than her sexual orientation at birth.

''I have not made a pro-lesbian film but my film has started a debate about the subject," he said.

"Whether my film generates good or bad publicity, my intention is to start a discussion about this subject, and create an awareness in society.

Amrita Arora is one of the stars in Girlfriend
Critics say the film is pornographic

"Lesbians should be accepted in society because freedom of sexual preference should be allowed in a free and democratic country," he said.

Most women's groups like FAOW agree the film has been made solely to titillate, and shows little sensitivity towards the subject.

But many are wary of standing up to protest against it, because they do not want to be perceived as siding with right-wing parties.

Tejal Shah organised the first international film festival in Bombay last year, dealing with sexuality and gender plurality.

She argues that filmmakers should be allowed freedom to make what they want.

"But they should also have some moral responsibility," she said.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's David Sillito
"The innocent days of Indian film are over"



SEE ALSO:
India awards annual cinema prizes
23 May 04  |  Entertainment
Bollywood in spotlight at Cannes
07 May 04  |  Entertainment
Bombay cinemas to strike over tax
07 Oct 03  |  South Asia
Getting intimate in Bombay's cinemas
05 Aug 02  |  South Asia
Inside Bollywood legend's birthday party
12 Oct 03  |  Entertainment


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