Actress Nandita Das said on Friday her 1996 film "Fire" has helped in "mainstreaming" homosexuality in the country, and that it contributed to debates on the repeal of Article 377, which criminalises homosexuality.
"The seeds of debate asking for repeal of Article 377 have been in 'Fire'. The film has helped in mainstreaming homosexuality in the country," Nandita said as she was discussing her film nearly 20 years later at the Women in the World India Summit here.
She said ever since the film, helmed by Oscar-nominated Deepa Mehta, was made, the reception of homosexuals in the country has "definitely changed" in a positive way.
Joining her in a panel discussion titled 'Fanning the Fire' at the summit were her co-star Shabana Azmi and Mehta.
The panelists said that "Fire", which portrays an intimate relationship between two women (enacted by Nandita and Shabana), was initially cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) without any editing, but soon saw protests which they said were sparked by the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist group in Mumbai.
The movie was "thrashed" and was termed as anti-Indian culture, Mehta said, adding that the film has changed the way "India is perceived in the world".
Talking about the film, Shabana said the decision to act in the film was not an "easy" choice, as she knew it would raise a "controversy".
Shabana, a former member of the parliament, also raised concerns about the CBFC, which once cleared "Fire" without a single edit, currently editing to the extent of length of a kiss. "The growing intolerance in the country is worrying," Shabana added.
Mehta is the director behind the Elements Trilogy which deals with social issues like that of the widows in the country, which she portrays in her movie "Water", and the story of India partition through "Earth".
The one-day summit is hosting women entrepreneurs, actors, activists from across the world to hold discussions on a variety of world issues.