a film by Mahesh Dattani
2002 | 90 mins | India
in English with sparse Hindi
›› Mango Soufflé
the comical repercussions of gay life, Indian style.
Mango Soufflé by Mahesh Dattani Slated as the first gay male film from India, this message in a cinematic bottle piece shines the spotlight on those who adopt a heterosexual lifestyle for the benefit of social integration, even if in doing so, it raises many an unintentional laugh along the way.

For cue the life of Kamlesh; fashion designer to the élite and a man whose lover is currently taking time out to decide where his sexuality lies. Opting to leave India as a result, he summons his friends together at his rural home in Bangalore to tell them the farewell news. That is if he can get a word in either way, given the company to be had.

Mango Soufflé by Mahesh Dattani Namely Sharad; previous boyfriend material and a man whose camp mannerisms lie in stark contrast to Bunny; closeted male lead of the Bollywood film industry and every inch a man's man, in particular when he's in bed with his lover Ranjith, that of an upper class Anglo-Indian whose pronunciation of English is fit for a Queen. Keeping the peace between the warring fractions is Deepali; Kamlesh's close friend and a girl who like everyone is eager to know why he insists that his man of mystery styled ex, should remain just that. The answer of which lies in the unexpected arrival of his sister Kiran and her fiancé Ed; a man that as a missing photograph shows, Kamlesh knows only too well.

Based on the directors' own stage play On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, this comical insight into the repercussions of living life as a gay man in the Indian society of today has a lot to say, in particular in a country in which religious, cultural and social pressures all too often triumph over personal sexual freedom. Yet in depicting such, Dattani piles on the jokes at the expense of cultural differences and stereotypical gay imagery, that coupled with its Bollywood production values and frequent choppy editing, greatly undermine the central message of sexual acceptance, resulting in a work that is at times corny, acting often stilted, with both direction and dialogue showing one too many signs of their stage origin.

That said, when did you last see a gay film from a country / film industry that clearly is still struggling to come to terms with sexual diversity? And for that it has to be applauded, marking as it does a progressive step in the advancement of Indian gay rights. It's also quite fun.
available on DVD as part of the Water Bearer Films, Inc catalogue
screened as part of the 17th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2003
starring: Ankur Vikal / Kamlesh, Faredoon Dodo Bhujwala / Sharad, Rinke Khanna / Kiran,
Atul Kulkarni / Ed, Sanjit Bedi / Bunny Singh, Denzil Smith / Ranjith
and Heeba Shah as Deepali.
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #054
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