Bigg Boss 14 has begun with a bang. There are some hot and heavy contestants on the show who will keep the season interesting throughout. But, this season features zero contestants from the LGBT+ community. In the past, contestants like Lakshmi Tripathi, Sushant Divgikar and others have enjoyed a strong presence on the show. But, on second thoughts, and in hindsight, it is the best for the LGBT community to not get representation from a show as blatantly homophobic as Bigg Boss.
Firstly, Bigg Boss makers will never have the spine to bring a gay romance on small screens. They will always reduce the show, as they have in the past, to tokenism of inclusion. Romances on BB are a big hit. Prince Narula and Yuvika Chaudhary met on the show, fell in love and are now happily married. But for contestants from the LGBT community, romance is not on the table inside the BB-house. It has not been in the past 13 seasons. BB has the potential and the power to change the outlook of the society, but, alas, not the courage.
Moreover, the makers have rarely cared about the safety and emotions of the LGBT contestants and community in general. In the very first episode of Bigg Boss 14, Shehzad Deol - a straight man - placed a friendly kiss on Rahul Vaidya's cheek. Rahul was tasked by 'senior' Sidharth Shukla to get a kiss from a girl if he wants permission to sleep in the night. Rahul asked many girls who said no. He asked Shehzad for a kiss to demonstrate the platonic nature of the kiss he is asking for. Of course, you know where this is going! #ProudBoys Takes Over Twitter With Gay Love! Trump's Address to Far-Right Group 'Proud Boys' in Debate Gets Hijacked With Stories of LGBTQ Love.
Next, Sidharth asked Shehzad what would he do for permission to sleep (The house has a new rule where Sid can dictate everyone's sleeping schedule). Shehzad, innocently, said that he's ready to do anything. With the knowledge that Shehzad placed a kiss on Rahul's cheek, Sidharth said, "Mujhe Shehzad se dar lag raha hai". A statement that was applauded by everyone else in the house. Yes, homophobia is so funny in 2020. Instead of normalising heterosexual men showing affection to a brother, the show and its contestants are hell-bent on pushing the Indian TV back into time.
Bigg Boss has a vibrant history of homophobia. In Bigg Boss 7, VJ Andy, who said on the show he is bisexual, had been subjected to homophobic slurs time and again. Armaan Kohli and Kushal Tandon had said the cruellest things about Andy. "I am very disappointed by the open homophobia by some of the contestants," LGBT activist and actress, Celina Jaitley had reacted to the homophobia on the season. All Bigg Boss Seasons Ranked From Worst to Best.
Bigg Boss 12 in 2018 was the worst. Wild card contestant Rohit Suchanti was called gay by Karanvir Bohra and Sreesanth for wearing purple. The duo also made effeminate gestures to mock the man. The channel decided to make an entire promo out of this. The channel also showed the footage to Rohit, in order to get some juicy content.
In the promo, the narrator said, "Rohit pe lage kuch asahniya aarop". Asahniya aarop translates to 'unbearable accusation' in English. Since exactly when, calling someone gay is an accusation? And that, too, unbearable? Accusation implies wrongdoing. Will channel like to clarify if being gay is wrong in their writer's room?
Watch the promo here:
Kya jawaab denge @imrohitsuchanti gharwalon ke inn aaropon ka? Jaanne ke liye dekhiye #WeekendKaVaar with @BeingSalmanKhan raat 9 baje. #BiggBoss12 #BB12@iamappyfizz @oppomobileindia @TheGarnierMan @letsdroom pic.twitter.com/LZ0FtHSVXJ
— COLORS (@ColorsTV) October 27, 2018
Rohit, when he learnt about the 'unbearable accusation' threatened to beat up Sreesanth and Karanvir. But, more importantly, he clarified: "Main wo [gay] nahi hoon."
Karanvir's wife Teejay Sidhu slammed the housemates on Twitter after watching the episode. And, we say slammed in the lightest way possible. "How small-minded & nasty to make fun of someone's sexuality, whether it's thru words, gestures, mimickry, or just standing at the sidelines laughing. And that, too, with no proof of someone being gay,(sic)" she wrote. Hang on a second there, why does there need to be some proof at all? Would it have been okay to make fun of Rohit if there was proof that he was gay? Maybe, Teejay and her homophobic husband can help us out here with an answer.
Vikas Gupta, a former Bigg Boss contestant, had tweeted back then, "It’s not about Rohit Suchanti who is straight but the portrayal of the LGBT community as something to be made fun of or laughed at [that] is really disgusting."
Read Vikas' Post Here:
I am extremely upset after what I saw today on #BigBoss12 on @ColorsTV . So I wrote this ‘The Color Purple’ . Hoping it reaches the right people who read and share it ahead . It’s important that we don’t let people think it’s okay to do this #TheColourPurple #BeKind pic.twitter.com/ohE6m8vgQy
— Vikas Gupta (@lostboy54) October 22, 2018
On season 11 of Bigg Boss, Vikas challenged homophobia in the house. At one point, Salman Khan had to explain different types of sexual orientations to another contestant, Jyoti Kumari, in order to support Vikas. But, do not give Salman too much credit. We have dirt on him as well. Nevertheless, contestants like Arshi Khan and Akash Dadlani continued to bully Vikas. A petition was filed against the show for promoting homophobia during the season.
Vikas, two years after his season, came out as bisexual in an emotional Instagram live. Before that, the winner from his season, Shilpa Shinde, had publicly challenged him to come out if he is not a coward and not ashamed. Yes, we made a homophobic woman win Bigg Boss 11. Dear Shilpa Shinde, You Don’t Get to Make the Choice on Behalf of the LGBT Community.
The homophobia for Vikas did not end on season 11. Good grace, how will the show earn money if it stopped in season 11. He was a guest on season 13 of the show, before coming out, and had to school a grown-up man Asim Riaz to think before speaking. But again, thinking before he speaks had never been Asim's strength. When Vikas confronted Asim about the alleged homophobic remark, Asim denied it outright. However, later, Asim sat down with other housemates and laughed about the complaint raised by Vikas.
Coming to the beloved host of the show, Salman Khan. When in season 7, VJ Andy and Sangram Singh struck a platonic friendship, Salman mocked it by singing "Raja ko raja se pyaar ho‘gay’a."
Ayushmann Khurrana starred in the gay romantic comedy, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhaan, and went to promote it on Bigg Boss 13 in 2020. Salman asked him if he is changing his 'track'. When Ayushmann said his film is a family comedy, Salman laughed at his face on national TV. Salman even asked the actor if he washed his mouth after kissing a guy.
Will the makers allow racist comments to fly so daringly on the show? Why is the homophobic content and contestants given a platform? Why is there no strict punishment against homophobic remarks on the show? Well, maybe, for Bigg Boss makers, the homophobia will always be content for a hot promo. A winner for sure.
Let us also have a look at some repercussions of homophobia in the real world. In July 2019, a 19-year-old boy, Avinshu Patel, died by suicide in Chennai after facing homophobia. " Please do not blame my family. Help them. We are poor. I love my mom, dad and sister. I thank them for supporting me. It is not my fault that I was born gay, " he wrote in his suicide note. In May 2020, Anjana Hareesh, 21, died by suicide in Goa, after facing homophobia and conversion therapy for being bisexual. In August 2020, a gay couple in Assam, Brajen Thakuria and Ankur, died by suicide for their relationship was rejected by family and society. They asked for strict punishment against people who opposed their relationship in a suicide note. In June 2018, a lesbian couple jumped into a river in Gujrat and killed themselves. "We are leaving this world to live with each other. The world did not allow us to stay together," they wrote in their suicide note.
We certainly don't need India's 'favourite' reality show promoting homophobia.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Oct 06, 2020 09:23 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).