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Alerting On The Film Girl Friend

16 June, 2004

Dear all,

This is an urgent and serious matter. Tejal and Sheba saw the premier
of the film 'Girl Friend' yesterday.The film portrays Isha Koppikar as a sexually abused, violent, obsessive, killer, psychopath lesbian. The film claims to address the issue of 'lesbianism' but operates from a totally homophobic, hetero- patriarchal viewpoint. It will do unspeakable damage for the movement and simply put, it is downright dangerous for those of us trying to survive in an already hateful world.

The movie tears away the anonymity of lesbian existence; the word
lesbian is actually used in the film and the image created is a ghastly
and revolting one. The character is not a lesbian, she is a woman
hunter, a man hater, there are so many things in the film that are
absolutely despicable that one cannot even begin to describe them.

The absolute folly is that this movie is going to show in movie theatres
all across the country. So while the film capitalizes on the lesbian
angle (there is even a sleazy bedroom scene) the axe comes down so fast
and so hard on the lesbian (she dies a gruesome death, which is
obviously retribution) that there is not even a sliver of doubt. Women
who hate men become lesbians- who are bloodthirsty, abusive killer- who
finally bring on their own annihilation.

We have to take a stand and make a statement against this film and we
have to come up with strategies to make a strong protest. We urge all of
you to make time and suffer through the film this weekend so that we are
well aware of what we are up against.

Tejal has reviewed this film for MID-DAY. What she has to say and that
reflects how the rest of us feel as well, is written below. Do go
through it as well.

We urge everyone to come together. We will continue posting minutes of
every meeting and action taken.

In Solidarity,

Shruti, Tejal, Sheba, Aditi

o o o o o


Dear Mr. Karan Razdan (director of Girlfriend),

This was supposed to be a film review. If the Shiva Sena and the Bajrang
Dal go on a rampage yet again, to protest your film 'Girlfriend', ask
for the film to be banned or sent back to the censor board, I might even
forgive you.

But I know, that six years after Deepa Mehta's film 'Fire' was released,
the right wing will see no reason to protest your film because your
portrayal of a lesbian as 'a psychopath' sexually abused, man hating,
murderer and killer' fits just fine into their hetero-patriarchal agenda
of portraying lesbians & gays as freaks, abnormal and as people who must
die at the end of the film, so they are aptly punished for their
unnatural existence.

On the out set, it must be stated that the ''Lesbian' issue is a hot
topic; it attracts audiences, creates a curiosity and definitely impacts
the box office collections. I mean, if you were to tell me that you made
this film because you care so much about lesbians and the issues
affecting them, that you wanted to bring this issue into the public
realm, into every Indian household, surely you mean it as a
devastatingly, nasty joke!

Your film is a presentation of the worst possible misnomers (I
consciously refrain from using the word 'stereotype') about anyone who
may be attracted to a person of the same gender. The male, macho but
normal (read heterosexual) hero has no qualms about playing a
hyper-exaggerated, sissy, gay man when he needs to seduce the simple
minded, generous at heart, 'one-night' lesbian, but basically reformed,
heterosexual heroine, Amrita Arora. The straight heroine who is being
continuously misled by the lesbian villain must be saved by the
good-boy-hero. In the end, values of heterosexual love, marriage and
'normal' families must be upheld. The character of Tanya, acted by Isha
Koppikar is nothing short of a 'lesbian animal' aided as it is by the
background score to help us see her as a wild, almost cannibalistic
man-eating/man-hating woman who dares to behave like a man, a Sahela.
All this of course is explained by the simple truth that she was
sexually abused as a child simultaneously implying that what makes women
'this way' is possibly, abuse at the hands of men!

After watching a film like this, it is impossible for anyone to think of
'women who love women' as normal human beings with two hands and two
feet, who may be a friend, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a neighbour, a
grand mother and least of all a caring lover.

It must be pointed out that under the section 377 of the Indian Penal
Code, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are looked upon
as/considered criminals, existing against the order of nature. Hey! and
if you thought it was just about 'those guys & their lifestyles', let me
remind you that anytime you have non peno-viginal penetrative sex, you
are as much of a criminal and can be put in the prison for 7 years or
heavily fined or both.

Mr. Razdan, the next time you say that you are taking a neutral position
in this film and portraying the case of just one lesbian, let me remind
you precisely, that the fiction you are choosing is a cleverly developed
and thought out story that carries a clear message. This message is a
dangerous and retrogressive one. It is a message that endangers the life
of any woman who may look or behave boyish, any woman who chooses to
experiment with her sexuality, and any woman who asserts her right to
different choices, even those women who are good friends and hold hands
when they walk down the street.

Welcome to the world of blatant hate crimes based on your sexual and
gender orientation!

As men or women, homosexual or heterosexual, films like these take us
many steps backwards. More than two decades of work done by Lesbian,
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender groups, feminists groups, human rights
groups, women's groups and progressive artists groups, is going to
suffer as this film is commercially released in every part of India from
small towns to big cities.

Every time I hear of another lesbian suicide, another girl who hanged
herself for being teased about her 'best' friend, another hijra woman
raped in police custody, another woman sent for shock treatment and
aversion therapy to cure her of her homosexuality, another couple put
under house arrest by their parents when they find out about their
same-sex love, I will think of this film and I will be reminded of the
power that Bollywood wields in creating a mass consciousness of one sort
or the other. In this case, it will be a conscious, articulated, homophobia.

Thank-you very much Mr. Razdan, but we, as progressive citizens are not
interested in lip-service. I can assure you of one thing: the homosexual
community in this country would much rather live in quiet anonymity than
be mis-represented in such a ghastly, contorted fashion. Even a little
bit of research on your part would have revealed that there are at least
three active lesbian and bisexual women's groups in Bombay city alone
and hundreds of 'women who love women' leading their lives openly and
happily but that's only possible when one makes a film on a hot issue
(like lesbianism is in India) when you foresee beyond profits and
publicity and see, real lives and real people who will live the
consequences of your doing.

It's time that we stopped separating the issues that films address and
their impact on the audience/citizen within a given socio-political
context/environment. It is also high time that we stand in protest
against any film that causes damage to the rights of any minority group.

Tejal Shah

(The writer is a visual artist and the co-founder, organiser and curator
of Larzish - tremors of a revolution, International Film festival of
Sexuality & Gender Plurality, India since 2003)

BBC News, 14 June, 2004
'Girlfriend' causes India storm
By Jayshree Bajoria

The Telegraph, June 16, 2004
Two Women - Editorial

The Times of India, June 16, 2004
The XY-rated Film: Thought Police are Oxy-morons
Bachi Karkaria

see also the the URL for the official website on the film:


Courtesy- Harsh Kapoor/SACE