Young TV and theatre actor Saatvik, (you have seen him in Star Plus serial ‘Everest’) has said three words, “I AM GAY” with pride, which Karan Johar couldn’t do in his book. Saatvik has written a powerful letter to all of his colleagues and gay men in India.
Saatvik had come out in the age of 20 at St. Stephens College, Delhi. Later he moved to London to have a postgraduate degree from University of Oxord. He was out and proud gay man there too. He got a well paying job as an economist. But he wanted to act and to chase his dreams, so he came back to India. Back here, he had to take one step back into the closet because he was told by insiders to hide his sexual orientation from the Industry. He was told that the audience will not accept an openly gay actor. But Saatvik realized through some incidents that he shouldn’t hide his true self from anyone and he came out; not just for himself but for all gay men of India. He explains how gay men in India have made their peace and adjusted their behaviour and dreams accordingly. But staying in closet was not his thing. Gradually he came out to everyone in his social circle. He wrote and directed a play with a strong homosexual component that was well received in 2014.
An excerpt from his blog:
“My parents have always known, and they’ve always accepted it. I’ve been lucky throughout my life to find acceptance.However, it was only the UK’s accepting atmosphere that fully allowed me to come to terms with it. There, I knew for the first time what it felt like for my sexual orientation not to raise any eyebrows at all.
The Delhi High Court had delivered its historic judgement in 2009, and homosexuality had been legal for three years at that time. Moreover, I was convinced that my ability to get roles in India would be completely unaffected by my sexual orientation.However, almost from the moment I landed, I was told by insiders to hide my sexual orientation from the industry. Casting directors would not cast you in a lead role because how can a gay man romance a woman? And so, I took one step back into the closet. I justified it to myself by saying “why must I stand on tables and shout out my sexual orientation? Straight people don’t do it!”
“But all this came to a head once when I was travelling with a troupe to Jaipur from Delhi for a play. Our make-up artist was gay and out, and he opened up to us about his struggles. A small town boy, he is effeminate, and he regularly gets abused for it. He’d had so much that he was questioning whether there was something wrong with him. As he broke down into tears, I told him that I understood, and that he had to be strong and fight the abuse. He looked me in the eye and said “you don’t know what it feels like, you have not been through it yourself.” I wanted to tell him that I HAD been through it myself, that I understood what he was feeling, but I couldn’t. And it felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders at that point.”
This, and other similar incidents, drove me up the wall. It got to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore, and without a thought to the consequences, I started coming out to those colleagues who I had established a certain level of ease. Gradually it came to the point where I was pretty much out to everyone in my social circle.
The SC judgement turned a fairly apolitical me into a bit of an activist. I felt wronged, personally. I wrote and directed a play with a strong homosexual component that was well received in mid 2014. I performed at gay themed events. In the midst of all this, I shot for Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Everest, and did a blink and miss role in a film that most people missed, Badmashiyaan. Everest brought a little bit of mainstream popularity with it, and god forbid any of my new ‘fans’ figured out that I am gay! It would be a PR disaster for the TV show. So, I led this strange double life – my theatre was out and proud, and my screen work was old fashioned and closeted.
I also saw what this partial closetness did to the world around me. It became EXCEPTIONALLY difficult to date. I came across an entire network of ‘coordinators’ who were gay without saying it, propositioning me with the tacit understanding of subsequently giving work. I came across several actors who were gay, but talked about imaginary girlfriends. There were those who were so paranoid that they were out to no one at all. They would want to meet alone, at their place, when their flatmates were away. There were those who were married, and fulfilled their desires by sleeping with men on the side. Among the few that were out, most were militant about it – as if being gay was the sum total of their existence. Even here, stories of non-acceptance, abuse and conflict were the norm.
Many gay people have made their peace with the state of affairs, and adjusted their behaviour and dreams accordingly. They do not feel the need to come out explicitly, and I do not have any problem whatsoever with them – they are entitled to their belief systems. However, my experience here has convinced me that I need to come out.
About Karan Johar’s veiled coming out, Saatvik says, “Personally, I do not think it is my station at all to judge Karan – I have not lived his life. Karan is entitled to do whatever he wants, and I am no one to advise him about how to present himself to the world.”
“You don’t need to be an activist and your life does not need to be defined by being gay. But you just need to do your little bit by coming out, and sensitizing the people around you. So, please, if you are in a position to do so, come out.”
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