Oscar-winner Resul Pookutty seems to have offended a sizeable number of RRR fans by suggesting that there was more to the NTR-Ramcharan friendship in S S Rajamouli’s arching epic than meets the eye.
Resul, I suspect in an off-guard ‘Kapil Sharma’ moment apparently called the film a gay love story. He is flooded with hate mail since then and is being called unmentionable names. Everything from his sexuality to his religious belief is being questioned. First things first: are we still living in those primitive times when same-sex relationships qualified as stone-pelting offences?
This is not only an attack on the man’s right to opinion and expression but is also very myopic. Right from the time when Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole played Becket and King Henry 2 in Peter Glenville’s highly-acclaimed film Becket’s screen friendships have been open to homo-erotic interpretations.
Were Rajendra Kumar and Raj Kapoor more in love with one another than with Vyjanthimala in Sangam? Was there more to the Burton-O’Toole friendship in Becket than what we saw? We will never know. Ten years later when Hrishikesh Mukherjee adapted Becket to an Indian context in Namak Haraam he cast Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan as class-challenged best friends.
In the film when the director shot the two friends in the song Diye jalte hain phool khilte hain badi mushqil se magar duniya mein dost milte hain, there was a certain intimacy between the two friends, not seen in the same two actors’ behaviour towards one another in the same director’s earlier Anand, that suggested a deeper bonding than a heterosexual friendship.
This brings us to the most controversial and famous representation of male bonding in Hindi cinema in Ramesh Sippy’s classic Sholay where Jai(Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru(Dharmendra) spent more time together than any husband and wife. Their song of togetherness Yeh dosti hum nahin chhodenge is to this day interpreted as a gay anthem.
But then so is the Mukesh song Bass yahi apradh main har baar karta hoon aadmi hoon aadmi se pyar karta hoon which Manoj Kumar sang on screen in the 1970 film Pehchan.
Surely Manoj Kumar was not making a homosexual confession?!
Ramesh Sippy the director of Sholay told me to interpret Jai and Veeru’s friendship as I want. “They love one another as brothers. But if you see more to their friendship then that’s fine too, as long as the friendship remains what it is: a true bonding between brothers from different mothers.”
I suggest those who are vilifying Resul Pookutty for seeing RRR as a gay love story also take the moderate view of male friendship.The lines never stop being blurred.