Ian McKellen, the acclaimed award-winning actor, recently visited India to attend film festivals and to raise awareness for LGBT issues.
By way of background, India still has a law on its books dating back to 1862 and British colonial rule, which makes homosexual activity a criminal act punishable with a maximum life sentence in prison. In 2009, consensual homosexual acts were decriminalized by the Delhi High Court; however, a few years later the Indian Supreme Court overturned this ruling with the rational that if India’s laws need to be updated then this would need to be done through legislation by Indian’s Parliament. To date, no law has been passed in India to change the 1862 criminalization law; however, bills have been introduced in India’s lower house of Parliament, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
McKellen commented on India’s outdated law: “You have a repressive law in place for which I should apologize, because it’s not an Indian law, it’s a British law that we left behind. You should have got rid of it, and you tried to, and it’s come back, but it will go again, I’m sure.”
While in India, McKellen also planned to attend the Mumbai International Queer festival, an LGBT festival featuring more than 180 films. McKellen commented: “Increasingly, in India too, the film industry has matured, treating gay people with the same seriousness as straight characters… I look forward at Kashish to discovering more about Bollywood’s film-makers who reject fantasy for the truth about gay people.”
McKellen also described the challenges he felt as a result of being a gay actor: “It did inhibit me if I had a love scene with a girl as I couldn’t fake it… I did try to avoid romantic parts.”
Don’t worry, Ian, we think you are a pretty good actor!