Actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who stars as Saadat Haasan Manto in “Manto” — an Indian film that is not getting released in Pakistan — says society continues to remain stubborn in its reluctance to accept the bitter truth.
As the film has not got the green light for release, writers, activists and journalists got together last week to protest in different cities of Pakistan.
While “Manto” director Nandita Das has expressed gratitude to the supporters, Nawazuddin told IANS here: “The majority of the society has not grown up intellectually to embrace the truth. That is why we are still living in the same society and stuck in time… That is why what Saadat Hassan Manto faced in his time is still the reality. The problems are still existing and his story is still relevant.”
“Yes, like the way there were few liberal-minded people — writers, authors and intellectuals stood by him — in the present time, a few people have also stood by the film. But all of us are really in the minority, you know,” he added.
Isn?t it quite a pessimistic thought?
The actor promptly responded: “No, no, don’t get me wrong. I want to add that those few liberal-minded people are the reason why the world is still a nice place to live in. They are the hope that drives all of us to work with conviction and stand strong for the truth.
“Otherwise people will just look for an opportunity to kill each other.”
The film “Manto”, a biopic on Manto, released in India in September last year. It features Rasika Dugal, Divya Dutta, Paresh Rawal and Rishi Kapoor.
“Manto” travelled to several international film festivals like Cannes and Toronto, but did not fare well at the Indian box office.
“Initially, when the film released in India, since we did not get a good number of screens and audience reach, I was upset. Later when the film released digitally and the response started pouring in, I was glad that the film got a great shelf life on Netflix, and we did a good job. We gained confidence,” said the actor, who is determined to be part of such stories in future.
“Few stories are so compelling that when a filmmaker is ready to tell the unadulterated version of it on the big screen, as an actor you feel excited to do such a film. Of course, ?Manto? was one of such project and I will be doing such films in coming days,” said Nawazuddin, who will next be seen in “Thackeray” as late Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray. (IANS)
A year after the Supreme Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) decriminalizing homosexuality, the LGBTQ community still struggles with social stigma and lack of opportunities, but people have found the courage to speak up and come out of the closet, says Keshav Suri, who was at the forefront of LGBTQ community’s battle for equality.
In an interview with IANSlife, the Executive Director of The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group shares the changes he has observed in the society in the past one year.
It has been a year since Section 377 was repealed. As a member of the LGBTQ community, has the Supreme Court decision brought any changes in your life?
KS: I was open and accepted by my friends, family and team long before Section 377’s repeal. However, as a community member, the judgement affirms my believe in the Constitution of my country. It means I, and several others from my community, can walk freely in our country without being made to feel like a criminal. It signifies freedom! A lot changed in my life last year. I married my long-term partner, Cyril. Though the wedding happened in Paris, we hosted a reception in Goa. I also performed in drag with my mother. It was a big day in my life, the wedding videos and photographs went viral and there has been no backlash. It is a positive change.
Since then, what changes did you see in the society?
KS: In the last one year, I see a positive change of attitude and acceptance towards the community. Millions of queer people have found the courage to speak up and come out of the closet. There is serious intent with regard to conversations and engagement with the community members. Several content creators have produced content with protagonists from the community. To name a few there’s the movie “Ek Ladki ko Dekha To”, series “Made in Heaven” and short film “Intezaar”. Also the coming out of athlete Dutee Chand is a classic example of growing social acceptance.
I see the corporate India trying to establish a connect with the community, by forming ERG groups, doing sensitivity workshops and creating safe environment. We recently hosted India’s first LGBTQ job fair, which saw a healthy participation from the community and corporates. Affirmative action is the need of the hour. I am glad work in that direction has begun. But there is still a long way to go. The community still battles social stigma, lack of education and equal job opportunities. We are giving 100 per cent scholarships for LGBT individuals at the Lalit Suri Hospitality School to ensure a fair opportunity is given to them. urge more and more corporates, thought leaders to come forward and embrace the change.
Your group has always stood for inclusivity. But members of the LGBTQ community usually get little space in organisations. How can these places be made more inclusive?
KS: Start with regular sensitisation workshops. A lot of homophobia gets generated out of lack of knowledge. It is important to address it. I have taken session with teams at all my hotels across the country. We also do sensitisation workshops at The Lalit Suri Hospitality School and have introduced a Drag Queen Story Hour to educate children and make our work an inclusive and safe space for all.
What can be done to create a safe working environment for LGBTQ employees?
KS: It is essential to form Employee Resource Groups (ERG) and ensure the teams are sensitised. The community members should feel safe and wanted. There are issues like locker rooms and toilets that need to be taken care of. Organisations should to be mindful of their needs such as leaves etc, especially in the case of trans community. Make an effort to provide equal opportunities and benefits such as insurance. It is good to have a psychologist on board as a lot of people from the community find it easier to talk to one. We, at The Lalit, have taken the Lalit Equality Pledge that upholds our core value of ‘Respect to Individual’ and ensures equality.
Do you think the Indian society is not evolved enough to embrace homosexual people?
KS: Homophobia is a western concept. There are several examples of queer gods and goddesses in our scriptures. I believe we are an extremely tolerant and loving society, as opposed to what people think. We need to be educated, open our minds and rid ourselves of our prejudices. At some level, I feel we all are closeted. We need to open and embrace the change, and our society and its people.
KS: The road to equality is a long one. We need representation across industries and functions. We need marriage equality, health insurance, housing, education and adoption rights to begin with. As of now, the community has only been told that they are not criminals. It was said in the judgement, the society needs to be educated and sensitised to ensure there is no discrimination. The community should stand together, support each other and keep the dialogue alive to ensure equality. (IANS)