Sexuality Policy Watch

The Editorial: Films and Sexuality – In Plainspeak

“You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself.”

– Albert Camus, Notebooks

Black and white picture of a woman biting her finger

The arts hold great sway on how sexuality is viewed, represented, and understood. Does art imitate life, or life, art? Or can it be tossed away as an inscrutable mix of the two influencing each other?

Mass communication is increasingly turning visual in the world today, and the democratisation of media production and consumption, particularly that of the visual, has changed the modes of dissemination of ideas. More and more people now have access to photo and video cameras, and to the Internet on their mobile phones. We consume and produce simultaneously, contributing to the vast network of human communication and consciousness.

What happens to sexuality, that tricky territory, when it’s dealt with by the moving image – this excitingly realistic medium? How do social and political factors influence the film, and vice versa?

This first month of the new year, In Plainspeak pulls its focus into frame, and takes a few shots, cuts, and transitions between films and sexuality.

In the Issue in Focus, Ishani Dey picks up the issue of censorship in the history of Indian cinema – how the censoring of sexuality has shaped Indian cinema as we know it today, and the effect it has had on its audience.

As an audience member, Parvati Sharma reminisces about her teen years attending subtitled, slow-moving foreign film festivals with the object of her unrequited infatuation in New Delhi, as her tragic affections for the young woman gradually extended into a warm relationship with cinema itself.

Anjora Sarangi chats with filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava about her film about the exciting inner lives of small-town women, Lipstick Under My Burkha. Sonia Soans tackles representations of homosexuality in popular films and on television, and Damini Kulkarni examines the changing character and role of the ‘other woman’ in Indian cinema.

Shikha Aleya approaches the intersections of films with sexuality issues from various angles, each giving her a unique perspective of the scene. Vani Viswanathan reviews Tamil cinema in search of a ‘female gaze’, one in which the female lead unabashedly expresses her sexuality for herself.

Part 2 of the Hindi translation of Maya Sharma’s interview about people’s movements in India is also published in this issue. And as a tribute to feminist social reformer Savitribai Phule on the occasion of her birth anniversary on the 3rd of January, Nirantar contributes a piece in Hindi about Phule’s work towards the education of women in 19th century Maharashtra.

This month’s Brushstrokes section features stroke-of-genius Tweets persuaded by Breakthrough that feminist up DDLJ’s most famous patriarchal dialogue. In an issue about the visual, this section does something different with the art of words!

In the Video Page is a must-watch short film about love in uncomfortable circumstances by Anubhuti Kashyap, sibling of famous Bollywood filmmakers Anurag and Abhinav Kashyap.

15 famously banned films are listed in the Media Corner of the month, with a surprising commonality amongst most of them – they were banned because of something to do with sexuality!

Syed Saad Ahmad’s previously published review of Raj Kapoor’s classic Satyam Shivam Sundaram is translated into Hindi by Dipika Srivastava, while Medha Kalsi translates into Hindi Manak Matiyani’s also previously published article about how we tend to react to popular music perpetuating violence.

In the Blog Roll are articles curated from the Web about the rape of the character of Avanthika in the Telugu movie Bahubali (2015); representations of lesbian, bisexual and trans women in popular media; African feminist engagements with film; and sex, honour, shame and blackmail in an online world.

We return in February with articles and art on Self-care and Sexuality. If you wish to contribute to next month’s issues, write to us soon at

Until then, happy reading!


Text by TARSHI Team published at In Plainspeak, on January 16, 2017. Available here.

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