Thursday, 7 May 2009

They called me a Lesbian W***

by Devansh Patel

For the first time ever in the history...Arrghhh. Not working. Ok, let me try this. For the first time ever in my journalistic career, I am writing the stand first even before I've interviewed the celebrity. I call it an 'On Location Intro'. What's more, it's going to be a long one because our starry photographer Vickky Idnaani is present at the the streamy Jaitly's terraced apartment doing an outdoor photoshoot with her. Lucky I got my laptop with me because you never know when the inspiration comes thick and fast. The first one as I call it in my words was – The Butterfly Effect. Nestled in the heart of an angel with a white gown and wings, Celina looked celestial, and life hasn't always looked so blissful. Are not all angels spirits that minister and their ministry is directed towards those people who are going to inherit everlasting life? I was on the verge of inheriting one till my hands touched the hot cuppa coffee mug. “Please finish your photoshoot Celina, I'll wait”, I said. So as a spectator, I was watching too many flashes sprinkled upon the actress trying to control the wind which was blowing her well kept hair and her wings which kept falling off her back. “Let's have a messy look Celina”, suggested Idnaani. A few poses here and there and that's it. It was time for a dress change. In walks the white angel and out comes the red princess. Oh I wish I was her knight in shining armour. Jaitly sits on the piano chair while the photographer adjusts the light. To our surprise, Celina plays the piano and how. A one minute wonder gets the much awaited standing ovation from all present there including me. Back to some serious shoot. A wine glass with some red wine in it kept untidily in her hands, her hair falling off her shoulders and her body resting on the piano made me recall the UB40's famous number, 'Red red wine'. Wish she could play that on her piano. Anyway, from all the fun and frolic of the shoot we move on to the dining table. Just me and her. Time for some serious talk arrives. I was a bit apprehensive on whether or not Celina will graciously acknowledge my questions in the right context, in spite of me knowing that she openly talks about issues pertaining to gays, sex, marriage, politics and much more in a wider spectrum. For me though, this was my first time being too bold about the way I've ever asked questions to any celebrity. In fact, I actually felt like angelic Celina sitting on my shoulder saying, “Let's go for it”. What followed went down to be the most intrepid interview Celina Jaitly has ever given to any media so far. In other words, we sometimes like to call it 'A Bollywood Hungama extreme exclusive'.

What personal experiences of friendship in your life have shaped how you view gay issues?

I've had gay friends all my life, more so, gay men. Somehow in my school I always landed up being a protector of my male friends. I led a very protective life being an army officers daughter and coming from five generations of armed forces. Then came a time when I had to move out of my house to study. I was seventeen and that's when I had also started modelling. At that point, the first thing I thought was, wouldn't it be great if I had a boyfriend. Then one night, I went to a night club with my modelling gang after doing my first show with Marc Robinson. There I met this wonderful guy who was fifteen years older than me with impeccable manners. We hung out a lot and he never tried anything silly with me. We went out in a group of friends a couple of times and I fell in love with him. He then proposed me saying, “Will you be my girlfriend?”. I was over the moon because this was the first time I was falling in love. I would notice that he is only in close proximity with me when we would go out in public. Otherwise, he would avoid me all the time. I didn't understand and as months went by, my feelings for him soared but his distance grew much faster. Soon the relationship became abusive and that's when everybody told me, “Don't you realise he is a gay?”

And in spite of the abuse from your gay boyfriend, how did you manage to support the gay cause?

I had gay friends all my life but somehow I myself didn't know the whole concept of what being a gay was all about. As I entered modelling, I did come across quite a few gay friends, but he, my boyfriend, was completely normal at times. In times to come, I was just in a relationship which I was holding on to because I was completely in love with this person whom I thought would change one day for the better. But it never happened. It became so bad that I went under depression and became bulimic. One fine day I found out that I had lost so much weight that I only weighed 41 kilos. I decided to confront this issue with the help of my brother and friends and came out of this relationship. Then started a wonderful friendship with my boyfriend who helped me come out of this. It just became a wonderful friendship to last and then I made some gay friends. I had this friend who was a victim of gay bashing at night clubs because he was cross dressed designer who was struggling with his gender. He was also thrown out of his house and there were times when he had no money and I would share my money with him from whatever little I earned from modelling. That's how my whole association with the gay community began. My best friends trauma became my own and I started supporting the gays.

But it's only recently that people oppose you being so much in favour of gays. Why not back then?

I am always in favour of gays since I started modelling. Yes, at that time, I wasn't well known nor was I an actress. I was just a citizen of India supporting and taking up a cause so dear to me. Only when I came to Mumbai and established myself, I got to know what was happening with the gay community. That's when I decided that I should do something when my friend passed away. He died due to bulimia induced heart attack, had been raped and had no one to go to. I decided to take it upon myself. Martin Luther King once said, “You have to take the first step”. So I said to myself that if no one is going to do it, I'm going to do it. I went to the Mumbai Pride Parade and walked hand in hand with every person who was a gay because I wanted to let people know what being a gay is all about. It is just another relationship.

Your relaunching of Bombay Dost have got you hate mails. Isn't this getting a bit personal now?

It was always personal. In fact, the Lesbian and Gay community have gone and bombarded all media for putting up with the wrong information that the gay community sent me hate mails. What is happening is that there are certain cultural groups who are trying to insinuate that I am changing the Indian culture and making everybody a homosexual. Then I had people calling me on my website that I am a Lesbian whore. There was one journalist who asked me during the launch of Bombay Dost, “Will you marry a gay man or a lesbian woman?”. I am here doing this only for the simple reason that at least understand what gay community is all about.

Have you got any role model who are openly gay, lesbian or trans-gender?

Yes, I have. The Prime Minister of Iceland is the first openly gay person at that level in politics. I admire her. I admire Prince Manvendra because he has been practically de-throned and still stood up for what he felt was right as he could not be trapped in that any more. I wouldn't call them gay idols but I just have idols who've stood up for their rights each time. We pretend to be one of the most booming economies of the world, we are the worlds largest democracy, education is top notch in India and they think that you can be modern by drinking and smoking but when it comes to homosexuality, the same people call a homosexual man a faggot. I don't understand.

Marriage has been a heterosexual institution in our society since its inception. Would you then work with the government to pass this bill or an act about getting gay marriage legalised?

I had started that work six months ago when I first started a petition on Facebook which has been joined by almost three hundred members from all over the world of gay and student community who've come and supported me. This a petition to the health ministry to have article 377 firstly amended and then comes adoption. It just takes good human beings to make good parents and it has nothing to do with how you have sex. Straight couples are far more raunchy if we start getting into this issue. So lets leave it here.

Say if all goes well and gay marriage is legalised. Don't you think adoption will raise a few more eye brows?

Today we have an issue of Rubaina Khan, the slum kid from Slumdog Millionaire. Her parents are trying to sell her. Let's start with the slums itself, let's start with millions of children in the sex racket and paedophilia, children into drugs, etc. What do these children need? They need love and support and it doesn't matter whether it comes from a male or a female parent. What would a child do if a mother dies? It would be brought up by his or hers father, right? How would a gay couple have values is a stupid question because if that's the case, they wouldn't marry in the first place. You need to be good cultured and good valued person to adopt any kid.

Don't you think there should be at least one political party supporting the gay rights movement?

Congress has been very pro active to support this cause. The Health Minister spoke in the United Nations health forum about wanting to have gay rights in India. He also spoke about the article 377 which considers gay sex as illegal. He himself wants to do that. The irony of it is that there is a law since 1850's which the people of India follow. To change a law which is so old will take its time.

You're also providing financial help to the publishers of Bombay Dost. You're giving them an inch but what if they take a mile out of you?

I have a platform today. If I speak, may be people will notice. I am a brand ambassador and a film star. I am just using my platform to help some body and why not? I have three films a year releasing worldwide and they think that I need publicity. If I wear an outfit wrong, believe me, that'll be more publicity than I can handle. I am not going out of my way but am using the tools to support the cause I'm so passionate about. Bombay Dost isn't a typical glamour magazine. It's about bonding the gay community together and that is the only way people will come to know of what's happening with such communities. Now if I, as a gay right activist won't help it, then who will help it? They had no sponsor for the mag seven years ago and it shut down. I won't let it happen now.

You talk tough and intelligent. How about being a columnist for Bombay Dost?

I have been offered and I will be writing from the next issue. I have also started 'Talk to Me' forum on my website which is more so for the sexual minorities who can ask for help regarding mental issues, etc. I have doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists on board coming and visiting me on my site to help support the cause. They can laugh, joke and be serious about any issue which they feel they want to discuss.

You've got bunch of friends and supporters in the film fraternity. Isn't it sad to know that you are the only celebrity fighting for the gay rights openly?

I think secretly, everyone supports me. I don't blame them because for the simple reason that they will be tagged as homosexuals. And not everybody can handle that. Again it boils down to the same old issue – Gay people have no rights, it is not accepted in our culture, homosexuality is not legalised in India. So why would a celeb support an illegal activity because that's what it says in the Indian Penal Code.

Say if there is a cause which states: All individuals convicted of any crime, big or small, be barred from the Indian Politics?

I will be the first person to join that group, believe me. May be I should start another group on Facebook for that.

Lets move to politics now. You've already campaigned for someone in the current elections, right?

Right. I have campaigned for only one candidate this year, Vibhakar Shastri who is the grandson of Late Shri Lala Bahadur Shastri. My great grandfather and Vibhakar's grandfather were close friends. Vibhakar is a very well educated guy, fabulous gentleman and young. That's what we need in our present government right now. He requested me to join him in Fatehgarh to meet all the villagers and I went and did that. I went walking village to village because I felt that he was the right candidate. I know about the person I'm campaigning for from head to toe.

Accident On Hill Road, your next thriller after Red. Talk please.

It's a Magna Films Production. It's a film based on a true story of one incident happened in the United States and it created a lot of waves in the early eighties. They have changed the screenplay to an Indian setting. It's an interesting story because I will be deviating away from comedies for a change. It's an immense thriller and we are starting the shoot tomorrow. Abhimanyu, the actor from Gulal and Farooq Sheikh is making his comeback after Saas Bahu Aur Sensex. The film centres around my character and it's a woman oriented subject. I am not allowed to inform you about the incident as that is the essence of the film. But after Red, Accident On Hill Road is one film which will bring out the best in me.

Your turbulent relationship, followed by your passionate support for the gay community, launch of India's first ever gay magazine, taking the abuse, politics and an intense thriller Accident On Hill Road. Wow! Too serious an interview?

There is too much trauma and trouble in the world and the only way to come out of it is to do comedy films (laughs and again gets serious). I have two passions, one is acting and the other is humanity. As a performer, I want to make people laugh by doing silly and stupid stuff. As a human, I'd like to say – Everybody thinks of changing the humanity...but nobody thinks of changing themselves.

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