The Union Defence Ministry has refused a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the script of Onir’s next feature film We Are, supposedly inspired by the real-life story of a gay Indian Army officer. According to the ministry, the film is the portrayal of a “romantic relationship between an Army soldier serving in Kashmir and a local boy”, which casts the Indian Army in “poor light and raises security issues”.
“The rationale behind issuing NOC to filmmakers/producers for movies based on defence-related themes is to ensure that the Armed Forces are not depicted in a manner which brings disrepute to the armed forces/government/country, as also to ensure factual accuracy and that no classified matters are brought out in the open domain that could affect the security of the country,” Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt said in the Lok Sabha.
Expectedly, Onir is disappointed at the turn of events. In an interview, he had said how the story of the gay Major was supposed to be the opening segment in the upcoming sequel to his earlier film I Am (2010). We Are is a composite of four interconnected stories celebrating the Supreme Court’s verdict on decriminalizing homosexuality in 2018. The stories, he said, would also highlight what changes the LGBT community went through after the court’s verdict.
Following the Defence Ministry’s refusal to grant the NOC, Onir tweeted, “So a soldier and a local girl (like Yahaan)! Would be ok. But a Gay man can’t have any sentiments. Homophobia shows its ugly face.” In another tweet, Onir claimed that he had not been informed that being gay in the Army was “illegal”.
The National Award-winning director, who has often told stories of homosexuality through films such as My Brother … Nikhil (2005) and I Am, sounded dejected. On Twitter, Onir also said he wanted to show that a gay man is as patriotic as anyone else. “And all I wanted to do is show that a Gay man is as patriotic and capable of serving in the army like anyone else. And we also happen to fall in love. BUT then YOUR love is supposed to be Beautiful and accepted … But it seems that OUR love is Unacceptable,” he wrote.
The Ministry also informed the Lok Sabha about the status of proposals received by the Indian Army for the granting of NOCs from filmmakers/producers for the production of films concerning the military.
In the last one year, the Indian Army has given permission for seven documentaries/TV series and nine feature films. The Indian Army has rejected approval for one feature film and the NOC to another film is pending.