Indians took to Twitter to express their frustration after the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) pushed the release of the film Love, Simon back indefinitely.
Originally slated to be released on 1 June, Love, Simon was eagerly awaited by some Indian moviegoers, who attempted to purchase advance tickets only to be denied. Soon after the hashtag #ReleaseLoveSimoninIndia began trending.
Love, Simon is a film based on the book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli in 2015. Simon is a 17-year old boy in high school who despite having close, loving and supportive relationships with his friends and family keeps his homosexual identity a secret from them. This is the first major gay romantic comedy film to be released by a major US studio. Fox 2000 rolled it out in the US, where the movie had a favourable response from both critics and movie-goers.
According to an anonymous source cited by The Free Press India, the CBFC decided against allowing the film to be shown because there is “no audience” for it. This assertion flies in the face of the film’s worldwide success and vocal supporters within India.
“I doubt that it can be said that the film has “no interest” but rather it has less popularity than other mainstream foreign movies, the reason being India is deeply homophobic but I don’t think that justifies not releasing it,” Ruth Chawngthu, the digital editor at Feminism in India and co-founder of Nazariya LGBT, told Index on Censorship via email. “I could be wrong but to my knowledge the film creators decided to not release it so perhaps the concerned persons should petition them instead? I personally don’t have strong feelings regarding the issue because it’s mostly the privileged upper class who are concerned about it. They were focused on the movie while ignoring the fact that members of the LGBT community were facing violence in different parts of the country at the same time.”
The CBFC states that it stands in the way of “[moral] corruption [as social depravity] has been one of the major obstacles to economic, political and social progress of [India].” This is in relation to Penal Code 377, a leftover from the Victorian era when India was a part of the British empire, and has yet to be changed due to social anxiety around the LBGT+ community. While India is in the process of reconsidering its 377 Penal Code which criminalizes “unnatural relations with man, women, and animal”, the diverse traditional religious communities within India and social stigma hold back public opinion.
Indians took to Twitter to express their opinions on the indefinite delay on Love, Simon’s release: