Growing up, being compared to Bobby Darling was seen as a slur. Homophobia and transphobia weren’t frowned upon as they are today (well, comparatively). This meant, the trailblazing transgender, Bobby Darling, had to suffer the brunt of the distasteful jokes.
Coming from a humble Delhi-based family, Bobby was born as Pankaj Kumar. She ran away from her home at a young age as she wasn’t feeling accepted for her sexuality. She came to Mumbai as Pakhi Sharma and made a career in films and televisions.
Bollywood and Bobby Darling
One of the earliest and most popular openly transgender actors, Bobby Darling starred alongside stars like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Anil Kapoor. But was Bollywood ever kind to Bobby?
Arguably, the biggest enabler of transphobia in India is Bollywood. Their treatment of Bobby’s sexuality was just horrendous. Just pick up any movies from her filmography and all you’d find is cringe. From Kyaa Kool Hai Hum to Apna Sapna Money Money, the movies have definitely aged like milk.
In fact, just look at her characters’ names and see how little effort Bollywood took to hide their bigotry. I mean, Bobby Mohabbati, Bobbylina Boywala and Mr Softy? What a rotten sense of humour, guys!
Saawan… The Love Season (2006)
Let’s get one thing clear: that is probably the worst movie title ever. It narrowly beats Charas: A Joint Effort for the first spot.
Anyway, Saawan… The Love Season has a B-plot that involves Bobby and Johnny Lever, where (Funsukh) Lever is constantly evading Bobby’s sexual advances. She is constantly finding ways to get Funsukh into the bedroom.
That’s it, that’s her only character description. Surprisingly, her character name, according to IMDb, is ‘Funsukh’s admirer’. That’s how they dodged the bullet, by not even addressing her gender.
Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa (2004)
I promise you, I’m not cherrypicking Salman Khan movies, okay? This is just pure coincidence. It’s not my fault his choices are terrible.
In Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa, Bobby Darling is shown to have hots for Aasif Sheikh. Just like in Sawaan, Bobby’s character description in this movie is ‘being horny,’ as well. Of course, that’s how they view(ed) the LGBT community.
This movie, too, tried to dodge the ‘gender’ bullet in their own unique style. Aasif Sheikh fumbles between ‘ladka/ladki/jo bhi‘ (girl/boy/whatever) throughout the film. Who cares about identity, anyways?
What else can you expect from Atul Agnihotri, who’s the director/writer of Hello, right? Remember the horrible adaptation of the horrible Chetan Bhagat novel? Exactly.
Can Bollywood change?
Bobby Darling is going through a tumultuous period in her life. Her marriage fell through and media went to town with her misery. But the internet is rallying behind Bobby for all the wrongdoings that our film industry did.
However, it feels like the times are changing. People have started to become sensitive when it comes to the plight of the LGBT community. This Pride Month, let’s apologise to Bobby Darling for laughing at all the insensitive jokes and watching all the horrendous, transphobic films. Not anymore.
It may come as a surprise to a lot of filmmakers, but the LGBT are people who are not obsessed with sex. Their lives do not revolve around heterosexuals. So, it’s time to unlearn what Bollywood taught us because it’s not that difficult.
It’s been 6 years since we last saw Bobby in a Bollywood film. The question remains, has Bollywood learnt its lesson?