Trump celebrates new gay Bollywood romcom, confusing supporters and critics alike

Vincent Wood
An Indian worker installs a giant hoarding welcoming US President Donald Trump ahead of his visit, in Ahmadabad, India: AP

Donald Trump has thrown his weight behind the first major release featuring a gay love story in Indian cinema, in an unexpected foray into Bollywood from the US president.

Following an evening when Mr Trump was taken to task for his criticism of the Oscars – including the awarding of best picture to South Korean film Parasite – the president returned to the subject of the silver screen in an apparant show of support for an LGBT-focussed Bollywood film.

In an endorsement which seemingly came out of the blue, Mr Trump appeared to show his approval of Subh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan – which tells the story of a gay couple’s attempts to win over the approval of their elders - on Twitter on Friday.

His apparent endorsement came in response to an article on British LGBT+ website Pink News that had been shared by the prominent British rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Mr Tatchell tweeted the article along with its headline, which stated the movie hoped to “win over older people, following the decriminalisation of homosexuality” in the country. Mr Trump retweeted his post, adding: “Great!”

It is unclear how Mr Trump came across the post by Mr Tatchell – who came to the fore for his LGBT+ rights activism in the 1970s and is not among the 47 accounts followed by the president.

“I hope this is the beginning of President Trump's genuine embrace of LGBT+ rights and not just a PR stunt,” Mr Tatchell, who has previously been critical of Mr Trump, said shortly after the retweet.

The president has repeatedly touted himself as an ally of the LGBT+ community, despite his administration curtailing the rights of trans people - including banning them from military service - and urging the Supreme Court to ensure gay employees are not protected under the Civil Rights Act.

It comes just days before Mr Trump is set to visit India to meet the nation’s prime minister Narendra Modi in the northern city of Ahmedabad. But it is unclear how the conservative Mr Modi will receive an apparent endorsement of progressive ideas from the US leader.

Gay sex was made legal by India’s Supreme Court in 2018 after judges cast off colonial-era legislation.

At the time, Mr Modi’s right-wing BJP government expressed no unambiguous opinion on the modernising step in India’s civil rights despite the matter taking centre stage in the national conversation.

An LGBT-focussed mainstream Bollywood release breaks with tradition in a style of cinema that has more frequently used the community as a punchline.

Subh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan – which translates as Extra Careful of Marriage – follows a gay couple as they struggle to win over one set of parents who are seeking an arranged hetrosexual wedding for their son.

The release marks part of a broader trend in the genre to push boundaries and represent a more modern India in films that have often historically focussed around the interplay between romantic love and tradition.

Read more

Donald Trump’s Parasite rant was a snapshot of his blinkered worldview