Excerpts from the dialog:
Shruti Janardhan: So, I watched Badhaai Do just lately, and I’m certain that you know this, however it’s a few marriage between a closeted homosexual cop and a lesbian PT instructor. I sought after to listen to a few of your ideas on “lavender marriage” as a time period, as an act of self-preservation, and as an act of resistance in opposition to the felony heterosexual framework inside which it exists.
Madhavi Menon: I noticed the time period for the primary time within the electronic mail that you simply despatched me. I do not know what it way. What’s it?
SJ: A lavender marriage is considered one of comfort between two people who find themselves queer in order that they may be able to be secure from a large number of the drive from their respective households and rapid communities. It turns into some way for them to reside authentically in a selected association whilst showing heterosexual for the sake of self-preservation. I believe the time period was once popularly utilized in america.
MM: In fact it was once.
SJ: I don’t know the place it first gave the impression, however it was once utilized in Hollywood within the early twentieth century when closeted celebrities married every different. I do know you may have spoken broadly about how we take those phrases from mainstream American queer politics and practice them immediately right here, and you’ve got additionally defined the constraints to that.
MM: It will had been great if she was once the cop and he was once the PT instructor, however I don’t assume some stereotypes move away. , it’s so attention-grabbing to look what has been carved out as a distinct segment of queer acceptability. And it’s obviously this sort of humanistic, pietistic factor of “we will have to all get alongside” and be capable to do no matter we would like, and, you understand, I utterly subscribe to that narrative – after all everyone will have to do no matter they would like and be unfastened to observe their needs it doesn’t matter what. However I believe that some of these motion pictures wish to do is extend the ambit of the heterosexual, reasonably than define a sphere of the queer. That – as a style of cultural illustration – is a ways much less attention-grabbing to me.
SJ: This is precisely how I used to be feeling whilst gazing the film. Sumi [Bhumi Pednekar] and Rimjhim [Chum Darang], as a pair, don’t problem the information of romance we have already got. Additionally they desire a long-term dating with a kid on the centre of it. How do you assume this queer dating between two girls, which exists within the concept of romance we have already got, complicates the speculation of obscenity?
MM: The rationale obscenity is so interesting is that, definitionally, it’s that which can’t be outlined. It’s that which is off-stage, in the back of the scenes, which you’ll be able to’t see, let on my own classify. To have a collection of acts and judgements to pass judgement on what’s obscene is in fact rather humorous – if it wasn’t so ridiculous. And you might be proper that sure varieties of non-normative sexualities had been introduced into those motion pictures now to sanitise them. However via this sanitised illustration, it in all probability permits us to look what’s now not observed. It’s an advanced argument as a result of I clearly don’t assume that just a few sexualities will have to be observed and others will have to now not. All I’m suggesting is that the extra you assume you’ll be able to see sexualities, the extra you police the way it will have to glance. If you happen to agree that this huge enviornment that we name sexuality is, actually, proof against naming, proof against being observed, then you definitely in fact broaden a wholesome appreciate for that more or less unknowingness, or un-seeingness.
SJ: Are you able to inform me extra about this pursuit of unknowingness. What does the time period “queer” entail from an educational viewpoint now?
MM: The phrase “queer” itself isn’t new. It for sure existed within the 16th century, which could also be my duration of specialisation. “Queer” [in academia] very a lot way peculiar and “at-odds with”. It got here in particularly to interchange what was once then known as “Homosexual and Lesbian Research” within the latter part of 20th century and early 2000s, as it was once regarded as that “homosexual” and “lesbian” had been too identitarian. It’s about enticing with what is thought of as “strange” with a selected set of questions.
As an example, whilst you bring to mind homosexuality, you bring to mind queerness, however that also is as a result of this is a sexuality this is stigmatised, one this is at odds with a heteronormative framework. However what we’re truly making an attempt to respond to is how stigma involves be related to sexuality as such. If we’re occupied with that better query, after which focussing on a selected identification class, it truly doesn’t provide you with the type of capacious canvas on which to color your idea – which queer principle calls for. And for sure, there’s a libidinal attachment to sexualities, however to not sexual classes consistent with se.
SJ: I wish to speak about queer grievance in relation to identification politics. I’ve grown up with the web and this concept of “self” that emerges within the virtual area, the place who will get to talk for whom has been deeply internalised. I do know you may have touched upon the subject in a few of your works, so I’d like to grasp your viewpoint. I guess you might be calling to spot the price on this identity-based politics whilst asking that we once in a while shift from this sort of essentialism.
MM: The very last thing you mentioned is admittedly proper. I utterly perceive and appreciate other folks’s wish to really feel visual and counted, like they don’t seem to be on my own, like they’re in corporate and in a gaggle of like-minded other folks. What surprises me probably the most, is when the strategy to this is utterly reverse of that want. I believe you can not say upfront the place you’ll to find your like-minded other folks. As an example, this is a sociologically established truth that during ’60s and ’70s India, maximum homosexual males recognized as such after gazing Helen in Bollywood. Helen is a lady; she is a heterosexual girl, and if you happen to did, as you mentioned, develop up within the web age, “heterosexual girl” is a special class, and “male gay” is a special class. And to me, that [identity essentialism] is an entire lack of inventive power since you don’t know the place you’ll to find your maximum fascinating illustration. I don’t perceive the will for a corporation that could be a prediction upfront and fixes other folks in some way this is, to my thoughts, utterly anti-creative and anti-political. And going again to the web, it sort of feels like one doesn’t must assume – one is going with sure labels to seek out not unusual parlance around the globe. And I imagine, now greater than ever, one must complicate one’s considering and include a undeniable perception of ambiguity – I to find the statement of simple task round us very horrifying.
SJ: I additionally wish to communicate in regards to the pressing wish to see your lived enjoy mirrored within the texts you learn and the belongings you watch. To legitimise how you are feeling about your self in a undeniable approach could also be how you spot your physically enjoy articulated in tradition round you, and I will be able to see this strand of idea turning into central to well-liked queer grievance.
MM: However Shruti, there’s a extra elementary query there, which is why would I wish to watch a film or learn a e-book or have a look at a work of artwork that I believe is “me” – what’s the impulse there? The working out over the centuries of literature, of which I’m a professor, is that you simply move there to lose your self, now not to find your self. That you simply learn texts to be able to inhabit flights of fancy, to be able to to find individuals who don’t seem to be such as you and may be able to form who you assume you might be. And admittedly, to examine any person who’s like me, I might be utterly bored to death in that. However I believe you might be placing your finger on one thing. There may be an expanding sense of writing as expressing the self and studying as a method of discovering the self, which utterly is going in opposition to the grain of what artwork is. If we interact in what you mentioned, then we’re subjected to the deluge of Ayushmann Khurrana’s motion pictures. So there needs to be a capability to extend one’s horizons reasonably than shrink them. Consider pronouncing “I’m the centre of the universe and all over the place I glance I’ve to look myself”. I to find that more or less homogeneity and uniformity extraordinarily horrifying.
SJ: I believe this is going into the center of critiquing as a convention, and I really like that you’ve spoken so much about having a laugh with texts, and with critiquing the ideas and concepts that we are living with. However…I additionally don’t assume we understand how to do it as a collective. Have a laugh, I imply.
MM: (laughs) The lack to snort at oneself speaks to me of an excessively inflexible mindset. If you happen to had been fortunate sufficient to visit the Shaheen Bagh protest when it was once nonetheless going down, you might have heard a large number of laughter there. I believe individuals are so stuck up within the concept of dwelling sanctioned lives, that they put out of your mind find out how to snort. I train very dense subject material and intense texts, and individuals are so worried they gained’t get it that they pass over the humour in them. We’re so scared to let ourselves off the leash – however if you happen to don’t, then all you might be doing is supporting the established order. Which is why I at all times affiliate insurrection and revolution with laughter.
SJ: I attended a web based Ashoka College match just lately, the place you spoke about iconic romances like Heer-Ranjha and Laila-Majnu, and the way the wishes of the ones protagonists needed to be realised outdoor of society. Even in opposition to the tip, it [desire] doesn’t get launched inside that social area.
MM: Oh sure, I keep in mind.
SJ: I’m curious to understand how we can put that framing within the context of an iconic Bollywood romance like DDLJ that, as some extent of struggle, is centred on an organized marriage that must be resisted in opposition to. And to make use of a newer instance, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, which I don’t assume is as romantic as the former instance, however it tapped into a selected temper and is respected and quoted so much in pop culture.
MM: It’s a just right query. You notice, once I say “anti-social”, I imply it in the best way that Shakespeare’s performs are anti-social. You may have Romeos and Juliets, that are very similar to Lailas and Majnus, the place they result in loss of life, which is obviously an instance of anti-social romance – a romance that can not be have compatibility into the sides of the social. So, if we put the tip of a movie or a play on a pedestal, we’re shedding out on the entire queer energies within the center. Are you able to believe if you happen to had been to observe Anand  and say, “How is that this a queer movie – the person and lady finally end up in combination?” If you happen to learn all the ones motion pictures with Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Dharmendra and Rajesh Khanna, they may be able to’t be learn teleologically for the tip. The queerness is the whole lot that is going on within the center. I believe Shah Rukh Khan is a brilliant instance of an heir of the ones varieties of milieus in vintage Bollywood cinema. The concept want does now not have to evolve to sure social scripts is what makes an anti-social film. And whether or not that transfer occurs inside a heterosexual dating or a gay one, it’s the power of the route wherein you might be shifting this is attention-grabbing to me, now not the vacation spot consistent with se. So, I don’t have issues of any of those motion pictures finishing up with a thankfully ever after, however I do have an issue with what you had been describing as “lavender marriage”, which is that this touchy-feely “I will be able to do the whole lot you need me to as a result of what I’m doing is customary and herbal”. You notice, naturalising the queer to get to the tip is boring to me. Highlighting the queerness of what turns out instantly – this is a lot more attention-grabbing to me, and I believe anyone like Shah Rukh does that at all times.
SJ: Shah Rukh Khan’s queer power in cinema is a brilliant be aware to conclude this with.
MM: It’s at all times nice to finish it with Shah Rukh.
SJ: Sure, completely. I’ve been occupied with the opportunity of an iconic queer romance filmography in Bollywood. We now have clearly come a ways from Female friend and Dostana , either one of that have been lovely atrocious, to Kapoor & Sons and Badhaai Do, which I believe point out growth, and I additionally imagine that Kapoor & Sons marked a decisive shift by some means. I believe I believe hopeful.
MM: Sadly, I don’t percentage your hope, Shruti. I’m satisfied you may have it – a few of us wish to have it, now not everybody will have to be cynical like me! I don’t percentage that hope as a result of none of those motion pictures talk to me. The flicks that talk to me are the rest through Sanjay Leela Bhansali – that’s an iconic queer movie for me. Or the rest with Amitabh and Shashi. I truly loved Kapoor & Sons, however It’s not that i am in particular within the partying shenanigans of a gaggle of well-to-do privileged children. I’m a lot more curious about queer fissures and queer energies, and, for me, the one film-maker at the moment who displays this is Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
SJ: Are you able to inform me extra in regards to the queerness of Bhansali’s motion pictures? I would like to understand what you particularly learn as queer in them.
MM: I believe each and every unmarried film he has carried out is quirky and kooky, and for me the truly iconic ones are Bajirao Mastani, Ram-Leela and Padmaavat. And he’s an excessively Bollywood film-maker, very Indian in his sensibility, as a result of he truly places his finger at the pulse of what makes India culturally and sexually so queer. This, after all, is why he has been roughed up and overwhelmed up, and I believe this film popping out [Gangubai Kathiawadi, which released on Feb. 25] may well be marked with a wide variety of PTSD. Deficient man. However Bhansali’s pronouncing that this can be a tradition that may at all times be occupied through Hindus and Muslims, and through sexual extra, that this can be a tradition with an excessive amount of color and an excessive amount of sound, too many dances, too many garments … that “too muchness” for me encapsulates queerness. And if you happen to stay looking to pare your self down and say “we have compatibility in, we can be similar to you”, that’s a waste. If you’re better than lifestyles and announce the brutality and vivacity of want for your motion pictures, that’s what’s queer for me.