Last week I reviewed the first episode of Panchayat, an Indian sitcom about the beset-upon Rural Development Officer in a quirky small town in Uttar Pradesh. To my surprise, there were gay subtexts everywhere; it was remarkably easy to read the main character Abishek (Jitendra Kumar) as gay, not to mention his fashion-plate assistant Vikas, the feminine, pink scarf-wearing Deputy Mayor Prahlad, and the down-low Mayor's Husband Brij.
Since then, I've watched more episodes, and I'm convinced that Abishek is canonically gay -- at least, as canonically gay as you can get on Indian tv. He doesn't get a boyfriend, but he displays no interest in girls, either. This is a show about male-bonding.
For instance, Episode 5, "Computer Nahi Monitor" (No Computer Monitor): "Bored with his mundane life, Abishek decides to have a bit of fun."
The "fun" means going to the town beer garden, drinking two beers, and passing out. He awakens the next morning to find that he forgot to lock the door, and someone came in and stole his computer monitor. He's living in the office, so it's government property, and he's accused of the theft. Later, the thief returns it.
At a climactic moment, Abishek complains that he's lonely. Brij, Prahlad, and Vikas all abandon him on the weekend; he has no family or friends to hang out with. So they guys surprise him with a beer and pompadum party. "Aren't we your family?" Brij asks. "Aren't we your friends?"
In Indian society, is it commonplace for men to socialize without women, or is this a guy-only man-cave evening?
(No new beefcake: these are random hunks, or I guess famous Bollywood stars).
Episode 6, "Bahot Hua Samman" (Much Respect): Abishek runs afoul of some bullies. In the climactic scene, they try to force him and his friends to take off their clothes and dance naked. That strikes me as a vey homoerotic request.
Episode 7, " Ladka Tez Hai Lekin" (It is Fast, But...), looked like it would prove problematic to a queer reading, since the description says: "Brij sees Abishek as a potential groom for his daughter Rinki."
But: Rinki does not actually in the series, except as a voice and a hand jutting from a bed. Abishek never meets her.
And Brij only talks to his wife about Abishek as a potential groom because he makes a low salary, and would therefore require a smaller dowry than the boy she wants.
How about asking the girl which she would prefer/ "Now you're talking like a lunatic!"
And he doesn't tell Abishek about the idea. Theoretically, Abishek says that if he were to get married, he wouldn't want a dowry. Brij finds this odd; what man wouldn't want his wife to bring money into the marriage?
Someone who believes in women's equality, or someone who has no intention of marrying.
Besides, 75% of gay men in India marry women in order to placate their families.
I haven't seen a lot of Indian tv series. Maybe the "will they or won't they?" love interest endemic to American tv is absent.
Maybe in rural India, men and women don't interact socially before marriage, so there wouldn't be a love interest, just a potential wife and a dowry.
Or maybe Abishek is quasi-canonically, "hiding in plain sight" gay.
See also: Panchayat: Gay-Subtext Series