Which Indian cities are more gay friendly?
Interview: Gay in Bollywood - India is changing
On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court in India ruled that homosexuality is no longer illegal. What has happened since then? We spoke to the gay Bollywood actor Saattvic about the changes in the Indian LGBTIQ * community and the acting world over the last year - and how to feel as a gay person in Bollywood feels.
What has changed in India since the judgment last year?
Very much. The social change was particularly great for queers from middle and lower socio-economic classes. They kept hearing all their lives that it was wrong to be gay. They couldn't meet other homosexuals without fear that someone would see them - and without Afraid of the police.
Some commit suicide because of the depression that accompanies such a life. A life that you spend alone and in the belief that you are not normal.
While family oppression is changing slowly, the role of the police is now different. There have been cases in the past where people have set up fake profiles on grindr. The decoy then took the gays to a place - the other gang members beat him up and robbed him. If something like this should happen now, those affected can at least go to the police and file a complaint without fear of being persecuted themselves.
Did the ruling have a direct impact on the gay scene in India's major cities?
I rarely go out, but when I do, I go to the gay nights in the Kitty Su-Clubs of the hotel chain LaLit. The parties take place in several Indian cities. I recently attended the party in Delhi and found that the atmosphere was very different than it used to be. People simply came together there who wanted to have a good time with their friends. Before the verdict, it often appeared as if people were escaping to the party to act out a repressed part of their personality and sexuality. It often degenerated into a meat inspection.
You publicly came out as gay in 2017. How did your family react?
I was 13 or 14 when my parents found out and luckily it was never a problem for them. I am very grateful to have them. There's even a video showing how well my family reacted back then.
It's not as easy for most Indian gays to come out as it was for you, is it?
No, it still has to be a lot social acceptance can be achieved. I know LGBTIQ * s who have been beaten up and molested for their extravagant looks. Some commit suicide because of the depression that accompanies such a life. A life that you spend alone and in the belief that you are not normal. Two of my own friends committed suicide. The threat is still very real, but everything is changing: in my experience, the younger generation is much more accepting and relaxed than older generations.
You went to Oxford University and lived in London for five years. How did it feel to suddenly live in a western metropolis?
I loved the freedom that came with living in London. When you grow up in a society where your feelings are illegal, you have to constantly keep secrets and hide things from other people. There were only two types of gay men in India who were very different: some hid in the closet and feared the outing, the others were out and behaved noticeably gay. True to the motto: “Look at me, this is my rainbow!” Since the community was so small, you had to devote yourself entirely to the matter as soon as you came out. In the UK I learned to accept that being gay is only part of who I am. It doesn't define me.
What was the main difference between being a gay man in London and living in India?
Whenever I came out to someone in India, the other person was always shocked. I often heard things like: “But you're not feminine - how can you be gay?” Or “Have you been to the doctor?” Thanks to my family support, I was able to allow myself to surprise and shock people with it Then in my freshman year at Oxford I was in a play, in a student production. The tickets weren't selling well, so the director asked us to invite our partners to fill the seats. "Saattvic, is your girlfriend coming? ", He wanted to know. Then I explained that I was gay. I expected a deep, shocked breath - but he asked without blinking an eyelid:" Okay, but your boyfriend is coming? "When I replied that I was single, he just said "Damn it!" and turned to the next one.
What is it like to work as a gay in Bollywood?
Everyone knows there are a lot of queer people in the film business and in the arts - but nobody talks about it. When I returned from London in 2012, I hid my sexuality again. There was a belief that casting directors would only offer you the feminine roles if they knew you were gay. In 2017 I noticed that there was slowly more acceptance. Queer issues were covered in several TV formats, including the popular series Satyamev Jayate from Bollywood star Aamir Khan. And of course there was this beautiful film Kapoor & Sons. I think that was the first time in a big movie that an LGBT character wasn't just portrayed as a gay stereotype. He was one of the main characters and he happened to be gay. That was a milestone.
How has the acting world changed after the verdict?
When the verdict was passed, everything changed. There are a lot more movies with gay characters in them now. Amazon Prime and Netflix are pretty popular in India, so there are a lot of web series now. Most of them have a variety of gay or bisexual characters. They are presented as they are, without any judgment, as complex characters and not clichéd. The web series in India are more likely to be seen by more socially and economically wealthy people - but LGBTIQ * topics are now often represented even in television programs for the general public. Every second reality show has a gay participant. The acting and television world has moved very, very quickly over the past seven years.
Saattvic (33) studied acting and economics. In addition to producing and directing several TV commercials and plays in which he also starred, he took part in the great Indian TV show Everest participated and starred in Bollywood film Badmashiyan. He currently divides his time between business consulting and the performing arts.
Saattvic is also represented on Instagram and Facebook.
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