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Ellen in the city

Published : May 9, 2016, 11:13 pm IST
Updated : May 9, 2016, 11:13 pm IST

When Aligarh writer Apurva Asrani tweeted a photo of himself with Hollywood actress Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, it created quite a stir. The caption read: ‘Met the lovely #EllenPage and her buddy Ian.

A screengrab of Ellen’s Instragram account announcing her visit to India
 A screengrab of Ellen’s Instragram account announcing her visit to India

When Aligarh writer Apurva Asrani tweeted a photo of himself with Hollywood actress Ellen Page and Ian Daniel, it created quite a stir. The caption read: ‘Met the lovely #EllenPage and her buddy Ian. Gorgeous conversation & a wonderful evening with friends & family.” Ellen’s visit to India has been kept under wraps as she doesn’t want too much talk around her trip. On her itinerary is Mumbai and Delhi where she plans to interact with members of the LGBTQ community for the second season of her show Gaycation and Apurva was one of the chosen people for the show. Gaycation is a docu-series on the struggles of the community across the globe and the first season covered countries like the US, Japan, Jamaica and Brazil. In 2014 Ellen made headlines when she came out of the closet with a moving speech that was widely shared and appreciated. And since then she has been a fierce supporter of LGBTQ rights.

During her stay in Mumbai the Juno actress spoke with several members from the community to know more about the queer support movements in the city. Ashok Row Kavi, the founder of Humsafar Trust, says that his meeting with her was scheduled for about 45 minutes but it spiralled into a two-hour long conversation. Ashok says, “Ellen was interested in knowing about the different kinds of LGBT movements in India as compared to those abroad. The gender and class bias in the country surprised and fascinated her and she was wondering where the bisexual and lesbian women are He continues, “India is currently at the forefront for the fight of legalising homosexuality and the world is looking at us. The diversity and gender divide was absolutely fascinating to her and she admitted that it was a learning experience. She even attended two parties during her stay here, to gauge the social interactions within the community.”

The parties were hosted by Bombay Dost and The Gaysi Zine Family, two of the most prominent queer collectives in the city. She also took part in a game of badminton in the suburbs.

Equal rights activist Harish Iyer, who describes himself on his Twitter profile as an “Ellen lover”, didn’t want to reveal much about his meeting with her. But speaking of the initiative, he says that any kind of advocacy is welcome. He also shed light about the struggles he faced while making a film on his life. “Homophobia is rampant in Bollywood, and while finalising the actor for Amen ( a film based on Harish’s life) we had a tough time, as no one was ready to play the role. No Indian actor except Aamir Khan has walked the extra mile to support our cause. We need our actors and stars to use their power to support us, not with mere elite tokenism but actually make some contribution through their art. Ellen is an international face who is daring to feature countries across the globe, that have laws prohibiting homosexuality. She’s setting a brilliant example,” Harish says.

Ellen being a Hollywood star, the dynamics for her are vastly different from those of Indian actors, points out Pallav Patankar, director of programs at Humsafar Trust. “Earlier we have had Stephen Fry who had come her to make a documentary on the community. I hear Ellen was also interested to talk to the LGBT radio taxi drivers in the city. But at the end of the day, the Indian sensibilities are plagued with the notion that it is a ‘Western concept’. Even though Ellen will put India on a global platform and the international community would sympathise with us, closer home we will still be stuck in the parliament as the people’s representatives are not willing to put our demands across. I wonder how Ellen will manage to change that,” he says.

Didn’t want to be Indian paris Hilton: Sushant Digvikar

Sushant Digvikar, Mr Gay India who was to be a part of her show decided to back out at the last minute citing unprofessionalism and high-handedness by her crewmembers. While he had to reschedule his holiday, pre-pone his commitments to be a part of the show, he revealed that they wanted to portray him merely as a party animal. “They wanted me to host a party and reduce me to a social butterfly. They wanted to feature my five walk-in closets, my wardrobe and 200-pairs of shoes that I own but refused to acknowledge the back-story. I put my foot down, as I did not want to be an Indian version of Paris Hilton. I’m a youth icon and all they wanted to show was that I party till 5 am and wake up again at 4 pm to party again. Yes partying is a part of my life but it’s just not about that. There is much more to my life and the fact that my father supports me through thick and thin and has no problem with my sexuality should need an acknowledgment too,” he says.