Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

Atithi Devo Bhava.India and its unfeigned treatment for guests, we tell you. And if the guest hails from a first world country, then move out of your extent to gladden them; literally! Since last few days, updates of Justin Bieber’s India tour have been appending quite a lot of fun to my otherwise hectic life.

Initially, Bieber’s demands for a private Rolls Royce, washing machine of a specific brand, sumptuous living arrangements that fancy those milky white curtains and vanilla room freshener, were all sounding rather bizarrely funny.

Further, I came to know how all our accomplished designers are on their toes to send out their precious creations as ‘tributes’. Designer Varun Bahl has curated Indian instruments of symphony, embedded with beautiful silk with floral works on it, and metallic gold. Rohit Bal, on the other hand, has created a biker jacket of velvet, with hand-crafted sequins all over it. Going a step further, Riddhima Kapoor Sahani (who also happens to be Ranbir Kapoor’s elder sister) has come up with a lavish gift for Bieber’s mother. She will be gifting a wreath-shaped necklace made of exquisite rubies and diamonds planted on 18k gold and platinum. Another renowned designer Anamika Khanna is not ready to be left behind as well. She has designed a gorgeous long jacket for Bieber’s mother. Sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan will be gifting him with an autographed sarod. I am sure I am missing out on more extravagant gifts that the teen sensation will be showered with. I regret!

Tickets of the concert were selling for as much as Rs 76,000. Salman Khan’s bodyguard Shera, who the superstar ‘vouches’ on, has been hired for his security. As the affluent Mumbaikars head for Bieber’s live concert this night, I am tormented with the image of a devastated, horrified Sanjay Leela Bhansali with his hair messed and his eyes flickering with fear; gravely trying to sort things out, amid the broken sets of ‘Padmavati’. There are numorous instances when our own artistes fell victims of enraged laymen, pretentious politicians and orthodox notions. Wish the same amount of love for ‘art’ was showcased! The same country which sends in hundreds of policemen to maintain right measures of security at an international pop star’s concert, has flagrantly failed to protect its own artistes and how!

All the craze, for music’s sake? Hell no. It is also because, we are forever in awe of the first world. Anyone with a foreign smell and an unfamiliar aristocracy never fails to amuse us. So, the Indian media comfortably takes a leave from an event where AR Rahman is performing live, and rushes to catch glimpse of the teen pop star. Of course, the Oscar winning composer’s performance was worth being abandoned.

A functioning journalist has no escape from news. I pressed my forehead as I looked at the photos of Bieber landing at Mumbai airport. More than the star himself, the space congested with reporters and photographers catches my eyes. I refresh my browser feeds. Every second publication is going elated with his presence. ‘Justin Bieber arrives’, my mailbox flashed. No, I won’t stress myself by trying to recall whether the same happens when the National awardees return home with the honour.

Tonight will be a glittery one. The city will pour all its love; and love will probably conceal itself behind grandeur. Long after the concern is over, the loud cheerings will wander around the night’s resting air, thinking how to hold on to all the affection.

And tomorrow, one more set will be burnt. We will pelt stones on one, burn effigy of another.

Because they’re our own. They can be let to go.

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?

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star

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”.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star
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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star
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.

Diamonds for Bieber, curses for Bhansali; A third world country’s obsession with a first world star
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.