Today, May 17, is observed as the International Day Against Homophobia that aims to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBT rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBT rights work worldwide. Despite battling with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world celebrates the spirit of homosexuality with great pride and love.

Off late, we have seen Bollywood breaking a lot of stereotypes and one of the major ones in that regard were giving women some really strong roles instead of mostly being arm candy. Over the last decade or so, many actors have portrayed the character of lesbian and gay on-screen, in turn blazing a newer, bolder path for the Hindi cinema. So, here is a look at a few celebrities who pulled off homosexual characters with great panache.

international day of homosexuality

Manoj Bajpayee in Aligarh

Manoj played a mild-mannered homosexual university professor named Siraj who gets kicked out of the university after his sexual orientation becomes public. Manoj was brilliant in this character as he gave nothing away about his apparent gender preference except for a few subtleties. While it is easy to go overboard with such a sensitive character, the actor remained completely grounded throughout the film and really made us feel for him.

Shabana Azmi in Fire

It is even rarer to see women take up such roles on screen and it is amazing that veteran actress Shabana Azmi was one of the firsts to do so. Her portrayal of Radha in 'Fire' as a suppressed housewife who finds solace in her sister-in-law Sita played by Nandita Das was indeed path-breaking for Indian cinema. The fact that such an explicit Bollywood film came out in 1996 was a miracle in and of itself and thanks to the brilliant performances from the leading ladies, 'Fire' became a trailblazer and an internationally acclaimed film.

Kalki Koechlin in Margarita with a Straw

Kalki has never shied away from experimenting with her roles and 'Margarita with a Straw' was a film that was right up her alley. She played the role of Laila, a young college student who suffers from cerebral palsy. Although in the film she is not explicitly lesbian, Laila does explore her sexuality by falling for both a boy and a girl. At the very least playing a bisexual character with palsy was no easy task and only someone like Kalki could pull it off with conviction.

Lillete Dubey: Seasons Greetings

Directed by Ram Kamal Mukherjee, Season's Greetings is a story of a modern, financially independent woman Romita (Celina Jaitly), working in UAE, who is now going to introduce her live-in partner of two years, Usmaan (Azhar Khan) to her mother Suchitra (Lillete Dubey)who stays in her beautiful mansion in Kolkata along with her household help Chapala (Sri Ghatak), who has undergone a sex-change operation. Suchitra is a woman of refined taste, who lives life on her terms on the staple of Rabindra Sangeet, Devdutt Patnaik's books, and, of course, the most delectable of Bengali cuisine. amidst all this Suchitra finds love and this time its not for a man but for women. Ram beautifully weaves magic and showcases the relationship that is beyond time.

Bani J in Four More Shots

In Amazon Prime Video's Four More Shots Please, Bani J plays the role of a bisexual woman who falls in love with an actress essayed by Lisa Ray (Samara Kapoor). Although Lisa doesn't accept their relationship at the start eventually they both unite.

bani and lisa ray

 Kubra Sait: Sacred Games

kubra sait

Thanks to Netflix and Kubbra Sait's portrayal of Kukoo, we managed to have a character who is transgender without being meek and powerless. The character's charm and exuberance make the whole "Kukoo ka jadoo" genuine. As Gaitonde's relationship with her grows, even the reveal of her gender identity strikes a chord.

The most outstanding moment of Sacred Games Kuku comes just before her death when she painfully realizes she has to leave Gaitonde to make it on his own because their relationship is exactly what stands in his path to "greatness". The emotion expressed is mostly through Kubbra Sait's eyes, which further cements Kukoo as one of Gaitonde's biggest holes in his heart.

Even though she only appeared for only three episodes, Kukoo takes us through the journey of standing tall and confident, before the weight of social discrimination and personal vulnerabilities kicked her down until she could no longer survive in that world. Hard to imagine a better romantic couple between a criminal and a transgender than this one.

Sonam Kapoor: Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga'

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga is a coming-of-age romantic comedy-drama about Sweety Chaudhary (played by Sonam Kapoor), a closeted lesbian from a conservative and traditional Punjabi family falls in love with Kuhu  Regina Cassandra and Rajkummar Rajkummar Rao plays the cupid between the two. The movie delivers entertainment while subtly giving the message of the change needed in the society's outlook towards same-sex couples. 

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar)

Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan revolves around a gay couple (Ayushmann Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar) and their families are against their relationship how they try to convince their families and society.

 Divya Dutta, and Swara Bhaskar, in Sheer Qarma
Sheer Qorma is an upcoming Indian Hindi LGBT romance film written and directed by Faraz Arif Ansari and produced by Marijke De Souza. Starring Shabana Azmi, Divya Dutta, and Swara Bhaskar, the film revolves around two women (played by Dutta and Swara Bhaskar) who are in love with each other. The film is slated to release this year.
Even though Section 377 has been struck down, we've still got a long way in removing taboos and preconceived notions and prejudices about the LGBTQ+ community. Cinema is giving its best to showcase love in all forms.