"Pyaar Kiya Tho Darna Kya?"... the famous song from the Hindi film classic 'Mughal-E-Azam' no longer has to be the theme song of gays in Delhi. The title of the song translates roughly to "What is there to fear when you have loved?" and it was sung by Anarkali who was a courtesan whose love for a prince was stiffled simply because of her place in society. It popped into my head this morning and as I was humming the tune, I got to thinking. This song is not just about the forbidden love between a courtesan and a prince. This song is about forbidden love universally.
It's lyrics capture the essence of the gay rights movement in India and how long and hard gays and their allies in India have fought for their love to not be seen as a forbidden one. Well their hard work has recently paid off because on Thursday July 2, 2009, a monumental decision was made by New Delhi's highest court. The court decriminalized homosexuality which had been illegal in India since 1861 when the British added a law known as Section 377 of India's penal code which prohibited "carnal intercourse against the order of nature between a man, woman, or animal."
First off I would like to digress and say that grouping gays and lesbians in the same category as beastiality is not only an insult, but a serious lack of judgement and understanding. But on to better things. Although the ruling was only for the city of Delhi, I predict that the legalization of homosexuality will spread to other parts of India as well. The stigma attached to homosexuality in India is cooling but this is mostly only happening in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai where there are gay pride parades and a long history of gay rights advocacy. Rural India still has a way to go, but with this tiny step of legalizing homosexuality, it opens the door for more education on not only gay rights but AIDS and safer sex as well.
I also appreciate the fact that Bollywood has taken steps to add gay themes and characters to its movies. Movies such as Dostana, which is about two men pretending to be gay to rent an apartment, may have silly plots but they do a whole world of good in addressing the taboo subject of homosexuality. It gets Indian movie-goers talking and hopefully learning something as well. Bollywood's acceptance of an open, cross-dressing homosexual, Bobby Darling, as a legitimate actor solidifies its support for gay rights.
India has come a long way from the days of Anarkali in 'Mughal-E-Azam' where even love between the different classes and castes was forbidden. It still has a long way to go, but there is hope in the horizon. One day however, 'Pyaar Kiya Tho Darna Kya?' will not be relatable as a theme song for gays, lesbians, and transgenders in India.
The music video for the beautifully rendered song 'Pyaar Kiya Tho Darna Kya'
The gay themed movie, 'Dostana'
Hijras (India's transgendered population) supporting the gay rights cause