Begums, Buddies, and Bandits: Imaging Queer Histories and Imagining Queer Futures in Dedh Ishqiya

The full essay is published at Critical Collective, an Indian journal of art and visual culture. 

In December 2013, under Delhi’s smoggy winter skies, the queer community gathered in response to bad news: The Supreme Court had just upheld Section 377 of the Indian penal code. Prohibiting all forms of sex besides heterosexual intercourse, the antiquated law had long been a focal point of queer struggles in India [1].

A month later, two Urdu-speaking outlaw women lovers drove off into the sunset together on the Indian big screen. They were Begum Para and Muniya, the two protagonists of Abhishek Chaubey’s 2014 Dedh Ishqiya. We can read their story as a moment of queer vision and re-vision coincidentally emerging at a time of political setback.

Dedh Ishqiya’s plot employs the double vision of the Hindi buddy film to reveal queer possibility hidden in plain sight. Second, the film hinges upon reference to women’s intimacy within the Urdu literary and cultural milieu.

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