LGBTQ Representation: Top Indian Web Series Doing It Right
India’s Web Entertainment Industry has been taking the lead in giving proper representation to the country’s LGBTQ community, who had been underrepresented and misrepresented by the mainstream media for years. Here are some Indian Web Series that are doing it right…
The LGBTQ community has been widely underrepresented and misrepresented in Indian Media. For years, the only minimal representation they received was limited to caricatures of gays and transgenders, unfairly treating them as mere comic elements in the story. Bollywood and commercial film industry of India is only now moving beyond its appalling disregard for LGBTQ sensibilities and catching up to mainstream representation with films like Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, starring Sonam Kapoor, and the upcoming Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer romcom Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan.
On the other hand, India’s Web Entertainment Industry has been a prominent platform which, in many cases, has given proper representation to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters, portraying their stories, their struggles, and their relationships sensitively. Several OTT platforms and channels, who have come to enjoy massive popularity across the country, have been responsible proponents of furthering acceptance and normalization of the LGBTQ community with their sincere portrayal and depiction of diverse characters in their web series.
Here are a few Indian web series that not only explored LGBT characters, their struggles, and relationships but did it right:
#1 – Made in Heaven:
Amazon Prime Video India’s Made in Heaven, considered to be one of the top web series of 2019, earned a lot of appreciation from critics and audiences alike for tackling several issues within the storyline. The series revolves around Tara (Sobhita Dhulipala) and Karan (Arjun Mathur), who play wedding planners for Delhi’s rich and affluent folks, managing their client’s wedding ceremonials while at the same time, dealing with their personal struggles as well.
Arjun Mathur’s character Karan, which he plays with much finesse, is shown to be gay, and the series gives ample screen time to his character development, exploring his backstory, his relationship with his parents, his personal struggles, as well as the way society (and even the police) treats him – with unfairness, disdain, and ignorance.
#2 – Romil and Jugal:
ALTBalaji’s Romil and Jugal takes on the topic of homosexuality on a lighter note, while also managing to get its point across. The series has been billed to be a modern take on Romeo and Juliet, but with a rather unique twist. The ten-episodic romantic comedy revolves around two guys, Romil (Rajeev Siddhartha) and Jugal (Manraj Singh), and how they fall in love with each other.
While Jugal is a shy Tamil Brahmin accepting of his sexuality, Romil is a typical macho Punjabi hunk initially in denial. The series, with an idiosyncratic yet meaningful essence, other than following the characters and their developing relationship, also sheds light on how their polar-opposite orthodox families come around to accept them as a couple.
#3 – Untag:
Untag by Voot talks about the various tags that society gives people, and how important it is to live life on your own terms. Untag revolves around six different characters, each with their own dreams, their struggles, ambitions, and inhibitions, and how a seemingly harmless ‘tag’ affects their lives, and their journey as they shed their concerns and live their lives the way they want.
The series also explores a relationship between two main characters, Nishchay (Meiyang Chang) who is openly gay, and Sumit (Naveen Polishetty) who is closeted, and how they manage to shine in their personal and professional lives, despite the struggles that they face and the tags that the society uses to judge them with.
#4: All About Section 377:
The Creative Gypsy’s web series, All About Section 377, gets its name from Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which once criminalized homosexuality in the country. The show follows a young man, Suresh Chowdhury (Gulshan Nain), who travels to Mumbai in hopes of becoming an actor. He moves into the apartment of his cousin, Rohit Mehra (Amit Khanna), who is gay and lives with his boyfriend Siddharth Juneja (Ankit Bhatia).
The series aims to educate the people about the struggles and issues faced by the LGBT community in their quest for societal acceptance in the country, which is depicted in a unique way through the eyes of a straight man, who although initially hesitant, comes to accept his cousin for who he is. The second season of the series, Still About Section 377, available to stream on SonyLIV, follow Suresh, Rohit, and Siddharth traveling to a village to convince Siddharth’s family to accept them. A major plotline in the second season revolves around the plight of transgenders in rural areas.
#5: The Other Love Story:
The ‘Other’ Love Story by JustLikeThat Films has been often credited as India’s first web series revolving around a lesbian relationship. The twelve-episode long web series is set in Bangalore during the 1990s, an era where homosexuality was unacceptable and considered to be a crime.
The web series revolves around two middle-class girls, Aachal (Shweta Gupta) and Aadya (Spoorthi Gumaste), who live in the same neighborhood in Bangalore and come across each other by chance. While Aachal has a bold personality, Aadya is shy and introverted. The story, set in a time without mobile phones and the internet, follows these two girls falling in love with each other and trying to navigate through their relationship in a society that does not accept them.
Honorable Mention – A Married Woman:
ALTBalaji and ZEE5’s upcoming web series, A Married Woman, is based on an eponymous novel by Manju Kapur, capturing a beautiful love story that is set in the backdrop of the political unrest and violence in 1992. The series features Ridhi Dogra and Monica Dogra in the leading role, marking the web series debut of both the actresses.
A Married Woman follows the story of Aastha (Ridhi Dogra) and Peeplika (Monica Dogra). Aastha is a middle-class teacher from Delhi with a hobby for painting, working hard to be the perfect daughter, wife, and mother. Aastha’s life decisions are always being taken by others, right until she encounters Peeplika, a girl with a personality completely opposite to Aastha, and an artist who has never been interested in the conventional. The shoot for the series is currently ongoing, and the show is expected to premiere on ALTBalaji and ZEE5 later this year.
A Welcome Development…
Though still arguably marginal, the Indian LGBTQ community is finally seeing more of its narratives being adapted in the mainstream. This can be seen as a positive step in eradicating irrational taboos, ones that had emerged out of a colonial hangover, from the Indian society. Shows like these are a welcome development towards normalization and acceptance, but there is still a long way to go.