May 24, 2013

Student of the Year: Bollywood Gay Romance

A South Asian news story can't overcome its hilarity.  When Varun Dhawan was promoting his new movie, Student of the Year (2012), in Ahmedabad, he never imagined that he would have to face the affections of a MALE!!! fan. But that's exactly what happened -- while he was signing autographs, a MALE!!! burst through the crowd and grabbed his hand. He tried to disengage, but the MALE!!! said "I love you," as if he wanted all the world to hear.  Varun was left shocked and embarrassed. He refuses to discuss the incident.

Varun's humiliation and the reporter's salacious delight suggests that homophobia in India is rather fierce and dark. There are gay characters in Bollywood movies, but usually humorous stereotypes (sort of like the nail-filing, show tune-humming gay "best friend" of the heroine in Hollywood comedies).

And in spite of Varun's problem, Student of the Year has a strong gay subtext (and a gay character).

Middle class boy Abhi (Siddharth Malhotra, left) enrolls at the ritzy St. Teresa's High School, where he befriends the wealthy Rohan (Varun Dhawan, top photo, the guy who was humiliated by the existence of a gay fan).  The two are soon competing over a girl, Shanaya (Alia Bhatt), and for the Student of the Year award sponsored by the school's gay Dean.

The classic triangulation takes on epic proportions, involving a wedding in Thailand, the death of Abhi's grandmother, Rohan being rejected by his parents, and a fight that demolishes the entire campus.   Abhi lets Rohan win the Student of the Year award, but Rohan refuses to accept it, and the students lambast the Dean for creating a competition that leads to rifts between close friends.

Ten years pass, and Rohan and Abhi meet again.  They argue, fight, and reconcile.  Nothing can tarnish such a close friendship.  Fade out with just the two of them, no girls in sight.

The gay subtext has even been noticed in India, where rumors are flying that Siddharth and Varun are involved in real life.  Director Karan Johar has also received his share of gay rumors.  Everybody denies everything.