Indian mass media has a rather poor record on gay representation, but that doesn't mean you can't queer the text. I'm going to go into the Indian tv series Panchayat
cold, without any research, because the star Jitendra Kumar is cute. And I'm going to assume throughout that, no matter what, that the protagonist is gay.
(After watching the episode, I discovered that Kumar plays a gay guy who marries his boyfriend in the 2020 comedy Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan).
A bus through the desolate Indian countryside of Uttar Pradesh (Americans: think Kansas). Abishek cuddles against his boyfriend, who wears a fluffy white sweater tied around his neck. They both ask the conductor when they will reach Phulera.
Cut to Abishek at the mall, now in a blue sweater with a feminine silver bracelet, explaining to his chubby friend Prateet why he took a job as Secretary to the Village Pachayat (Office of Rural Development). In a small town 100 miles from the nearest gay bar! "What choice did I have? I should have gone to a better college."
Prateet looks on the bright side: "It's not teaching Gay Studies in Paris, but you'll be digging sewers, building roads. Imagine the hunks in your crew, girlfriend! You'll be getting more action than any of the big city queens. Come on, I'll buy you a striped shirt. They're slimming!"
Back to the bus. Cuddle Bear was just a trick -- Abishek is alone when they finally reach Phulera -- or rather, the dry desolate outskirts.
Chubby Prahlad and svelte, stylish Vikas are sitting on a bench outside a run-down government building, waiting for Abishek's arrival: Prahlad says: "I hope he's a top -- and hung!" Vikas scoffs: "And into you? Please!"
Abishek drives up on his motorcycle. They check out his bulge while Vikas introduces himself as his new assistant. "And Prahlad is the Deputy Pradhan (deputy mayor, I think). I sent you his profile on Grindr, remember?"
"Sure," Abishek says. "I'm into chubbies. We'll talk later."
They are moving Abishek into a spare room in the building. It's all furnished, but the bed might be too big -- they didn't know how...um...big Abishek was.
Scene 3: Town rich guy Brij Bushan, husband of the Pradham (mayor?), arrives. First he makes Vikas wash his hands for him, and then search in his pockets for the key to the building. Obviously he expects Vikas to grope him. Abishek is shocked -- what a closet case! This is the 21st century. Just come out!
Scene 4: Brij lost his key, so they head to the fields to look for it. Abishek gets squirted by a water jet and steps in ox poop, and there aren't any hunks around! He thinks: I wish I was back in Delhi, cruising the waiters at the Cafe D'Etoile!
They can't find the key, so Vikas drives into town to fetch a locksmith.
While they are waiting, Brij invites Prahlad home for "um...a cup of tea." He refuses. Not into Daddies!
Scene 5: Brij's house. He tells his battleaxe wife: "I'm thinking of inviting the new Secretary over for dinner." She yells: "Sure, invite the Secretary, and those two queens from the office, and all of your Grindr hookups ! Turn this house int a gay bar! I don't mind!"
Abishek is walking through the disheveled, rundown, old-fashioned village, where women still wear saris and carry water jugs on their heads, and the men are all homophobic: "You dress mighty fancy. Where are you from, San Francisco?" Or else they try to grift money from him.
Scene 7: Abishek waits at the office. Finally Vikas returns, with no locksmith and a convoluted story about how he got into a motorcycle accident. They have to break the lock to get into the building.
Cut to Battleaxe Wife yelling: "You're not breaking my lock, you worm! Let the office stay closed!"
"But the Secretary will have no place to stay -- unless he stays with us."
"What? You want to move one of your boyfriends into my house? No way! Just break the lock!"
Scene 8: Night. Abishek arrives at Brij's house for dinner. Brij cautions him: "The situation inside is delicate, so be careful. Stay in the closet, ok?"
The two eat. Wife cooks, but is too homophobic to join them.
Scene 9: Back at the office. Vikas didn't break the lock -- he broke the whole door down.
A horrible, dark, dusty room, with papers and furniture scattered everywhere. An antiquated computer. Beefcake pictures of Rama and Vishnu on the walls.
They leave Abishek to his squalid digs. He calls his friend Prateet in the city. "This is much worse than I expected! I want out! I want to come home!"
"But sweetie, the only way you can get another job is to clear CAT (the Common Admission Test for graduate management training)" Prateet tells him. "Besides, this experience will look good on your resume. You've seen the real India, the down-to-earth Middle America of India!"
"The Middle America of India is full of closet cases and homophobic idiots. I'm studying for the CAT. Send me the books, in care of Vikas Khan."
"You have a boyfriend already? Girl, I told you there'd be wall to wall hunks!"
"Just write down the address."
We zoom out to the utter darkness of the countryside.
I changed a tiny bit of dialogue, but otherwise this is a major gay subtext series.