How One Movie Changed My Perception Of Homosexuality

In a recent interview, actor Parvathy Thiruvothu talked about how influential a movie can be in moulding society; a statement that has gone on to be a hot topic for debate. In my opinion, certain movies have the power to influence people. Kutikrishna Maarar, a  famous Malayalam critic, in his award-winning essays on literary criticism ‘Kala Jeevitham Thanne‘ talks about the importance and influence of art over one’s life.

My perception of homosexuality was changed by a single movie. 

Homosexuality was a word that was foreign to me and it remained so until 2014. Before you judge me, I must tell you that I am from a small town in Kerala, where even dating a person of the opposite gender is a big deal, let alone dating someone of the same gender!

I’m not kidding. Most of my friends who are in love, hide their relationship from their parents. A friend of mine was in a relationship with a man, and when her parents got to know about it, she was married off to another man within 6 months! I hope this gives you a vague idea of how conservative my town is. So I guess it was natural for me to not to know about homosexuality. Also, I would like to give some credit to all my teachers who deliberately skipped sex education, considering it unnecessary and a waste of time. 

My first window into homosexuality was through the movie Mumbai police. And boy oh boy! That movie made me cringe. For a fourteen-year-old me, it was a lot to take in.  To be honest, I was a bit confused and I even thought that Prithviraj was a transgender because I only knew about Transgenders from the pride community. I still remember the discussion I had with my best friend about that movie, as I was curious and overwhelmed by these new findings.

I was convent educated. So as I grew older, I had to attend a countless number of guidance classes for young girls, apparently to guide us into the right path, and homosexuality was a hot topic of discussion in the majority of those classes. I was taught that homosexuality was a sin. And hence, I deliberately skipped all the movies which have the slightest reference to homosexuality in it. I’m sorry if you are offended by me talking such blunders about homosexuality. I was told by someone that if you watch it, you might have a tendency to try it.

But all these misconceptions went for a toss when I saw Call Me By Your Name. It helped answer all the questions I had in my head. The story, set somewhere in northern Italy in 1983, is all about a forbidden romance between a 17-year-old American-Italian boy Elio and an American graduate student Oliver.

Elio lives with his parents in a villa. Each summer, his father, a professor of Greco-Roman culture would invite a student to stay and work with him. Oliver was the latest among them. Their relationship is slow-paced.  The chemistry between the main leads is so organic and natural, your heart will flutter every time you see them together. The unspoken tension between them is visible from the very beginning of the movie.

CBYN is incredibly sensual and erotic. But the best part of it is that you will never feel as if it is a romance between two men. Honestly, ten minutes in I felt nothing peculiar about their relationship. And that’s why this movie is so different from other BL movies. And term homosexual (or any of its synonyms) is not used in this film, not even once. And the greatest achievement of this movie is its unconventional way of approach towards homosexuality. Rather than a gay love story, it is just a love story between two human beings.

I loved everything about this movie, the calm and quiet neighbourhood, the Italian summer vibe, the melancholic silence between the leads. It was like reading sad poetry. The movie is an adaptation of a book written by Andre Aciman. It is directed by Luca Guadagnino. All the credits of this movie, without a doubt, goes to the director. It is well crafted. He definitely captures the purity and serenity of northern Italy, making it the perfect movie to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

(Spoiler Alert)

It doesn’t end on a happy note, and maybe that’s the beauty of the movie. It feels raw and real. At the end of the movie, we are left with two broken souls, one forsaken by his lover and the other afraid of being an outcast.

Sometimes  I empathize with Oliver, unlike Elio he does not have a supportive family and has to remain closeted.

(Spoiler Ends)

I can relate to the struggle of pretending to be somebody else just for the sake of pleasing society. I am a victim of this vicious tendency too. And I’m sure most of you can relate to this never-ending battle of fitting in. Therefore, I believe that the term coming out should not be exclusive to the queer community, it should be for any person who does not fit into the normal societal norms.

What I’m trying to say is that the movie was an eye-opener for me. It made me see the real picture. It normalised the queer aspect of a tragic romance between two unfortunate lovers and is definitely in my list of top ten romantic movies.

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