The very talented filmmaker Onir’s alternate sexuality is no secret. At a time when the other gay filmmakers of Bollywood are still struggling to get their pedicured feet out of the closet, Onir came out some years ago, with the disarming blessings of his parents and family.
But Onir has had to pay a price. He has not been able to direct a film for six years. “My last film I Am, though it got a ‘UA’ from the censor board, was unabashed about homosexuality. There were very frank references and visuals of homosexuality. No satellite channel or television channel was willing to air the film,” says Onir sadly.
Getting actors to say yes to his films has also become a problem for Onir. “There is always that note of caution in them. I was narrating a script to a top leading man. There was nothing about homosexuality in the film except in one scene where two guys were fighting each other hand-to-hand and I said such men’s fights have an element of homo-eroticism in them. The hero I was narrating the script to baulked and nearly fell out of his chair.”
Onir also resents the way young actors who work with him are linked with him. “A tabloid which had earlier accused me of sexually attacking a young male aspirant (Yuvraj Parasher) called up to congratulate me for launching my ‘boyfriend’ in my new film Shab. I told the tabloid, ‘I don’t care what you write about me. But if you write something like this about my new leading man Ashish Bisht you will hurt his career.’
Young Bisht too has become wary of his dealings with Onir. Says the saddened filmmaker. “After such talk started Ashish became cautious in his behaviour. He wondered if putting his hand on my shoulder would be misconstrued as a gay gesture. It was Ashish’s very middleclass but liberal parents who told Ashish to just be himself and not care about what others think.”
Onir feels he is being punished for coming out of the closet. “There are so many much bigger filmmakers than me who are yet to come out. Nobody writes or says rubbish about them. But because I am the only openly gay filmmaker in our film industry I am vulnerable to all kinds of attack. As was the case when Mumbai Mirror slandered me with a sexual harassment charge some years ago. My only regret is that I didn’t have the money to fight it out legally with a big organization like the Times Of India.”
In Bengal the only openly gay filmmaker the late Rituparno Sengupta spent years fobbing off insinuations of sexual advances towards his leading men.
Is Onir also being punished for his alternative sexuality? “Why should my sexuality be called the alternate sexuality. It is normal for me,” Onir shoots back.