This appeared in Bombay Times on monday....
Gay Pride and rainbows ….
Last week over 3,000 people turned up at Gowalia Tank to participate in Mumbai’s annual Gay Pride march. The numbers are impressive as compared to the motley crowd that once made up earlier parades. Significantly, this year, most participants chose not to hide behind masks. This is a major shift given the sort of self-consciousness and fear that had marked earlier marches, the first of which kicked off in 2005. This new confidence has a lot to do with the sort of support generated for the Gay community by high profile activists like Prince Manvendra Singh of Rajpipla – a soft spoken, charming and refined man, who has become the main spokesperson for Gay rights from India. The community could not have picked better. Manvendra’s mission is very defined and he works tirelessly towards realizing his dream. After his appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s show a few years ago, Manvendra’s international profile went through the roof. He was one of the hand picked participants to be invited back by Oprah last month for her much anticipated finale which will feature her favourite guests over the years. This is both an honour and a very big deal. Manvendra is well aware of his unique positioning and has made the most of this opportunity to push his agenda for Indian gays.
When I invited him over, he floored me straightaway! His vision is clear, and he feels no sense of anger or bitterness towards anybody who judges him… not even his mother, who stopped talking to him when he decided to come out. He spoke easily and candidly about his life, without over dramatizing any aspect of it. These days he shuttles between Rajpipla ( a few hours drive from Baroda) and Mumbai. That is when he isn’t jetting off to Paris to meet Carla Bruni and other high profile celebrities working for the same cause. I would have liked to join him and the others at the Mumbai march, where pamphlets saying “ One World – One Hope’’ were distributed. Being known the world over as ‘India’s Gay Prince’ may have alienated Manvendra from his own royal relatives, but he has found countless admirers across the globe for his courage and grace.
I have been looking at all the recent Red Carpet appearances of our super glam movie stars and wondering why we just don’t seem to get it spot on . Is it because this whole business of Red Carpet dressing is itself comparitively new here as compared to Hollywood? Or are we getting oppressed and bogged down by international fashion brands that desperately require the high wattage coverage such events automatically provide? What has happened to individual style statements and some originality, for god’s sake? All the ladies look like clones of one another… and the men? I miss the eccentricity of say, a Raaj (‘Jaani’) Kumar, who’d show up ( if he at all deigned to), in a vivid velvet jacket, boots and his trademark carrot red wig! Those marvelous Divas wore their sarees so stylishly, so sexily… they didn’t reveal an inch, but got all the eyeballs ! That’s class. Today, our Sridevi turns up in a risqué, backless gown….and I think to myself, whatever happened to that blue saree of hers from Mr. India that turned on the nation? As for the younger lot - all those dreadful gowns! The spangles and feathers! Miles of cleavage – and still no sex appeal! Come on, Bollywood. Go back to your roots and floor your fans once more!