Writen and directed by Indian Canadian Deepa Mehta, “Fire” is a 1996 film, starring Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das. A first mainstream film reveals homosexual relationship in India. Like Vietnamese traditional culture, Indian’s supports homophobia; thus, prohibiting homosexual individuals to “come out” in public. Two main female characters in “Fire” turn out to be expressively empty, lacking love or passion and suffer with their arranged marriages. After “Fire” was released in 1998 in India, many audiences staged protests, setting off public discourses about homosexual identity and the rights of speech.
In an article entitled, “Bollywood/Hollywood: Queer Cinematic Representation and the Perils of Translation,” Gayatri Gopinath examines popular Indian movies in the 1980s and 1990s and notes that they created spaces for women entertainment on the screen, which produced the possibility of choosing same sex desires between women. He argues:
Bollywood cinema is saturated with rich images of intense love and friendship between women in the context of archetypal spaces of female homo-sociality, such as brothels, women’s prisons, girls’ schools, the middle-class home, and the zenana (women’s quarters in elite Hindu and Muslim homes). As is apparent in the song and dance sequences from a series of films from the 1980s and 1990s, these women-only spaces allow numerous possibilities for female friendship to slip into queer desire. (103)
According to Gopinath, through movies during the late of twentieth century, Bollywood created a “space of resistance” for Indian women. Female audiences had an opportunity to discover their homosexual orientation within “women-only space.” “Women-only-space” is considered as a potential form of resistance to traditional, patriarchal and feudal society. Female same sex desires are portrayed as unrealistic and inconceivable to the dominant Indian culture. However, queer movements have recognized the transformation of same sex relationship between women into queer identities and the possibility of female companionship triggered queer sexuality. Similarly, many Vietnamese women who live in “women-only-space,” such as brothels, prisons, and girl’s schools can discover same sex demands in the context of female homo-sociality. Queer Vietnamese Americans need a safe space to share their queer longing and confirm both their traditional and queer identities.
Leave a Comment