Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is ‘Gundagardi’, why not Akhand Ramayan?

Dear Sonu nigam,

This is a letter to not just a singer I admire, but also to someone who shaped up major chunk of my childhood and teenage days.

I deftly remember my first ever black transistor radio. In our childhood, innumerable private music channels were a distant dream. Very few people around us owned mobile phones; and they almost looked like TV remote controls. In the afternoon, I’d come back from school, sit in my balcony and turn on the radio set. I was in 2nd or 3rd standard when ‘Sangharsh’ released. ‘Mujhe Raat Din’, that probably became the most sought-after romantic numbers of that year, first introduced me to you.

Next, I saw you on TV as you began hosting ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’, the first reality show I watched after I grew enough to understand competitions. I believe it was the same with many. A soulful singer, an unprejudiced, honest defender of true talent, you gave your fans numerous reasons to love you.

And then, yesterday morning, I woke up to your Twitter rants. An early morning Azaan woke you up, and you vented out your vexation on Twitter.

“God bless everyone. I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India? And by the way Mohammed did not have electricity when he made Islam.. Why do I have to have this cacophony after Edison? I don’t believe in any temple or gurudwara using electricity To wake up people who don’t follow the religion . Why then..? Honest? True? Gundagardi hai bus…,” you wrote. I could almost see you frowning. And I’ll be honest. It hurts.

Since the day I was born till the time I grew up, Calcutta has taught me the best of cosmopolitan, reformist and progressive outlook. Festivity, to me, still means those five days of Durga Puja; those five days that fuse people of all religions and communities together, without a stipulation. I would be more shocked than hurt if a Muslim neighbour ever came and demanded to know why they were being bothered by all the noise and crowd. Christmas got me no less excited than my Christian friends. On 25th December, the entire city would light up, looking like a mysterious, ageless, arresting lady. We silently admired as the believing heads bowed down in humblest prayers, and the church bell rang beautifully. It, however, caused a lot of traffic jam. Wonder what would happen if we dismissed the celebration! And let Alone the crackers of Diwali. And have you heard of ‘Akhand Ramayan’? Prevalent in North India, once it begins, it goes on for twenty four good hours, on mic.

Later when I moved to Mumbai, I realised it is the same everywhere. Despite so much of unrest and conflicts taking over the world, we continue to live because we extend hands of harmony towards each other.

The chant during Azaan is not just the holy beginning to a practising Muslim’s day, but is also a call of prayer, at different times of the day. Also pronounced as ‘Adhan’, it can be traced back from the word ‘Adhina’, that means ‘to hear’. Too sorry it broke your sleep though!

You correctly pointed out that Hindu temples or Gurudwaras do not have such practices. You however forgot, neither Hindus nor Sikhs have the practice of combined prayers, except of special occasions. And not sure if you’re aware of it, but the span before sunrise is as well an auspicious moment for Hindus, known as ‘Brahma Muhurta’. Practising Hindus believe, it is the best time to meditate, pray and worship.

Sorry if I came across as a religious preacher. I am a strictly non-religious individual who only finds the beauty of social harmony in every religious celebration and event. And thus, when you refer to Azaan as ‘Gundagardi’, my lips tremble for a moment.

Into 2017, and we are still struggling to achieve a little peace. The world is in strange contradiction with all the messages of love that we are always preaching. Whether or not you believe it, you public figures shape important mass opinion.

I am quite sure you’ve unintentionally hurt many of your Muslim fans today. Music is a weapon that binds us together beyond all walls. Why spit hatred when you can sing love instead?

Yours truthfully,

A fan.

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable

Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Image Source - YouTube

Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?

Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.

Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?

Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?

But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.

Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?

Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?

It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream

An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
Image Source - Pinterest

“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?
Image Source - India Forums

The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?
Image Source - Pinterest

The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.

Dear Sonu Nigam, if Azaan is 'Gundagardi', why not Akhand Ramayan?
Image Source - giphy.com

And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.

While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..

Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.