Maurice by Muhammad Humayun Babar
It’s always the discrepancy in the sociopolitical climate of the most popular queer films and the political and mundane queer realities in Pakistan itself, which sort of keeps me from delving into really outstanding queer films with absolute awe, because regardless of how densely they portray homophobia or same sex love, there is always this lack of immediate relatability. For example, in Call me by Your Name, when Elio has a very intimate conversation with his father about his “special” relationship with Oliver, it is not something a Pakistani queer person can relate to. And the unfortunate paradox here is that since there are almost no queer films in Pakistan, we have to consume western queer films to educate, entertain, or acquaint ourselves to queer cinema, whereas, Pakistan has had its own queer history and culture, which if doesn’t contradict, at least differs from western queer issues.
Now that I have pointed out my concerns regarding Pakistani audience watching western queer films, the reasons why Maurice (1987) is my favorite queer film is quite self-explanatory, but it does not mean that Maurice is purely immune to all the issues I have mentioned above. The way Maurice and Durham’s relationship comes to a painful halt, because Durham is concerned about his reputation and convinces himself that he likes women and marries one, corresponds really well with Pakistani queer politics. How when it comes to Pakistani queer relationships, they’re not as hindered by first world queer issues like who is going to volunteer for surrogacy, or how they’re not able to meet as often, but severe issues such as how their reputation is at stake and how not marrying someone from the opposite sex is not an option.
But why? Why not Call me by Your Name or Alex Strangelove? Because Maurice is set in the early 1900s, and Pakistan is decades behind some western countries in terms of queer acceptance. It’s quite amusing yet disappointing to see how certain countries are far ahead of other countries not only in terms of infrastructure and economy, but also homophobia, misogyny and other prejudices as well.