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On a Muggy Night in Mumbai by Mahesh Dattani: Representation of Same-sex Relationships and Love

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The play is set in a posh Mumbai flat of Kamlesh, a rich fashion designer and a well-adjusted homosexual, who is waiting for a group of his friends to arrive to sort out a problem in his life. His lover Prakash has left him to become ‘straight’ and marry another woman, and this frustrates Kamlesh: I would have understood it if he had left me for another man, but he left me because he was ashamed of our relationship. I was very angry. I left my parents and my sister to come here, all because of him. After living like a recluse in his flat for some time, Kamlesh tries to overcome his trauma in the companionship of his homosexual friend Sharad but fails. So he decides to discuss his grief with his friends for they “are the only friends” who “have all been through the pain of separation. ”

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Kamlesh’s world is confined to his friends who, like him, are homosexuals. The strong bonding between these friends is seen in the spontaneity with which all of them respond to Kamlesh’s request for help. People with similar sexual identities have managed to create a safe cocooned world of their own – the world of the homosexuals. On stage, this is offset by the Mumbai skyline in the background, representing the outside world which, throughout the play, tries to intrude into the world of the homosexuals through devices like a marriage party outside, children following some of the characters, the noise of firecrackers and so on. In this world of the homosexuals, the homosexuals freely express their feelings, discuss their problems and try to resolve their inner conflicts. The gays in Kamlesh’s party represent the varied faces of the homosexual community. Kamlesh’s lover Prakash is a coward, who fearing ostracization from society, decides to walk out on his lover. He is convinced of his own sexual preference but decides to choose a life of hypocrisy and deception rather than come out and face society upfront by marrying Kamlesh. He chooses the path to lead a clean life. The audience only hears about Prakash until the end of the play. Prakash represents the usual problematic homosexual, who begins to doubt his own reality and tries to reorient himself towards being ‘straight’.

Bunny is a clandestine homosexual who plays the role of an “ideal husband and father” in the Hindi serial, Yeh Hai Hamara Parivaar and also in real life. Bunny is a traditional Indian gay man – a closet homosexual who is married and ostensibly looks and behaves to be happy. He admits his homosexuality to his friends; but denies his sexual preference publicly. Instead he gloats about his success in leading the double life of a heterosexual and a homosexual. Unlike Bunny who is a hypocrite, Ranjit has been living happily and openly as a gay with his “English lover” for the last twelve years; not in India where such same-sex relationship is looked upon as illegal and ‘unnatural’ but in Europe where homosexuality is accepted. He regrets “being an Indian”, because he “can’t seem to be both Indian and gay” (Dattani, 88). In his country, he cannot “be himself”, he cannot come out in the open and so he finds an easy way out which is to move to Europe where people like him are accepted. There he is at peace with himself, with his sexual identity. Sharad and Deepali are very comfortable with their sexuality. Deepali lives boldly and happily with her ‘significant other’, Tina who is a lesbian. Sharad, the flamboyant gay, is not bothered about what the world thinks of him or how it views him. He is the very antithesis of Bunny who is hypocritical. And unlike Prakash, we see Sharad asserting his identity as a homosexual, “No, I am not bisexual; I am as gay as a goose”.

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On a Muggy Night in Mumbai begins with the assumption that homosexuals and lesbians are an established, though still an invisible fact of the Indian milieu. The plot is further complicated with shocks and surprises, when Kamlesh’s sister Kiran, the only heterosexual character in the play, come visiting and tells Kamlesh of her decision to marry her new boyfriend, Ed. Kiran and Kamlesh are very close to each other. Kiran is a divorcee; a victim of male violence. Later in her new boyfriend, she finds a loving and caring man; a total contrast to her first husband. Kamlesh is very protective towards his younger sister and would like to see her happy ‘at any cost’. Kiran an innocent girl is in the dark about her brother’s real self and is unable to even sense her brother’s present predicament. The friends are invited now to help Kamlesh discuss Kiran’s marriage as she is set to marry Prakash, Kamlesh’s former lover who has a new name Ed to suit his new identity of a forced heterosexual. His sister’s happiness means a lot to him but neither does he want her to live a life of misery with Prakash who is a confirmed homosexual. He knew Indian marriages well enough to know how difficult it is to come out of it and what a hell it can be to remain within it especially when the partners are not sexually compatible.

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On A Muggy Night In Mumbai By Mahesh Dattani: Representation Of Same-Sex Relationships And Love. (2020, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 27, 2023, from
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