(still from Khush where two women look directly into the camera as a clip from a Bharatanatyam performance is projected behind them)
“What do you enjoy the most about being gay? Two things: one is sex and one is solidarity.”
In Khush, Pratibha Parmar brings light to the queer Indian experience through a series of interviews with native and diasporic Indians. The interviewees speak candidly about their experiences with racism and homophobia, and the ways in which their desire for authenticity and freedom is weighted against their need to maintain community in the face of othering and racial violence. Parmar also leaves space for the joy of queerness. Khush, in Urdu, means ecstatic pleasure. While many of Parmar’s subjects share their struggles, they also share the communities, relationships, and discoveries that have led them to self-discovery and actualization. The interviewees are allowed the voice and agency that many of them have been previously denied.
Parmar’s voice, as that of the documentary filmmaker, is largely absent from the film, allowing the narratives of her subjects to speak for themselves. However, she intersperses clips of traditional cultural imagery with the interviews. Scenes of Bharatanatyam, a classical Indian dance, are juxtaposed with interviewees’ struggle to reconcile their queer Indian identities as they face pressure from their communities and the outside world to assimilate or risk persecution. Through this blend of the traditional and the revolutionary, of trauma and joy, Parmar presents a compelling and intimate portrait of Indian queer life and community.
Farr D., Gauthier J. (2012) Screening Queer India in Pratibha Parmar’s Khush. In: Pullen C. (eds) LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230373310_13.