Onir says gay roles are ‘sanitised’ as actors aren’t comfortable with intimacy

Filmmaker Onir has said that at times, gay romances on screen have to be ‘sanitised’ because the heterosexual actors performing those roles are not fully comfortable with the intimacy. There has long been a debate about whether LGBTQ characters should be played by non-LGBTQ actors. Talking about this in a recent interview, Onir said that getting heterosexual cisgender actors can often hamper the storytelling as they bring their inhibitions on board. Also read: Onir praises Rajkummar Rao, Bhumi Pednekar’s Badhaai Do: ‘At least some in uniform can be shown as homosexual’

Onir is best known for his film My Brother Nikhil, which was one of the first mainstream Hindi films to deal with same-sex relationships. He won the National Award for his film I Am, which also featured a segment on gay rights.

In a recent interview with the Times of India, the filmmaker was asked about non-queer actors playing queer roles in films. He responded, “I’ve noticed that male actors get a little awkward and uncomfortable doing intimate and romantic scenes with other men. Many of them say that this won’t be the right move for them at this point in their career. They have no qualms about playing a rapist but playing a gay man onscreen is an issue for many.”

The filmmaker added that at times the actors mean well but can’t shed their inhibitions fully to embrace the role. “Even if the intention and acting is great, straight actors lack intimacy when enacting gay persons onscreen. And by intimacy I do not mean sex, it is about the connect – like how the touch is not deep enough. Gay roles have been sanitised because not many actors are comfortable doing that,” he said.

Onir has now cast Delhi-based actor Vidur Sethi, who identifies as queer, as a lead in his upcoming film Pine Cone. The film reportedly follows the protagonist’s journey through a decade of his life.


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