Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride March

1 comments

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Sreejith K Soman

Ever since I returned to Kochi after my five years in Mumbai, I am sensing a different vibe from the current generation - a vibe of open-mindedness, of cosmopolitanism and of breaking away from the conservative shackles exhibited by the previous generations. That feeling was proved true when almost 500 people gathered in Kochi last Saturday to march for the 5th Kerala Queer Pride.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

A major chunk of the participants were straight supporters who feel strongly for the LGBT rights cause. Varkey Parakal, a class 12 student, feels that this is a human rights cause as well. "I have always been a supporter for causes regarding human rights and the LGBT rights are not any different." They were also not worried about getting labeled as gay while supporting the cause. There were straight supporters who held placards that shouted, ‘Happy Being Gay.’ Mohini Mohandas, another class 12 student says, “I don’t mind being called lesbian, bisexual etc. Because it would be like a person getting my age wrong - something harmless and correctable.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

The pride march is also a group therapy of sorts for the gay people and the watching public, opines Kishor Kumar, a software engineer and writer who had come all the way from Calicut - a few districts north of Kochi. “Most members of the LGBT community live in constant fear and shame; this is a chance for them to witness the support and acceptance showered by the public.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai
The Kochi queer pride march had many firsts to it. 

- This was the first time a queer pride happened in Kochi. Previous editions were held in the neighbouring district of Thrissur and once in Calicut.
- This was the first queer pride that was held in Kerala after the Supreme Court struck down the earlier Delhi High Court verdict which had decriminalized non-penile-vaginal sexual acts.
- This was the first pride march in Kerala which saw people, barring one or two, marching without any mask.
- Kerala queer prides started happening after the High Court verdict, hence all the previous versions were celebrations of sorts. This time, now with the Supreme Court verdict, the pride also had the flavour of protest - demanding to do away with the Section 377 law.
- The Kochi queer pride also saw the highest participation so far compared to any of the previous Kerala queer pride editions.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

The pride march was flagged off by the celebrity and TV personality, Ranjini Haridas, who had spoken passionately in favour of the LGBT community in a news interview at the time of the Supreme Court verdict. Before the flag off, she addressed the gathering saying, "As a woman I feel safer in the company of people from the LGBT community. They are some of the most passionate, talented and honest people I know." In an interview with Deccan Chronicle, she further adds, "We are brought up in a society where heterosexual relations are a norm and anything else is considered immoral. However, if you ask anyone in the LGBT community, they will tell you it's not really a choice, that they were born this way."

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Celebrity and TV Personality, Ranjini Haridas | Photography by Ajay Paul

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Ranjini Haridas with Kerala Queer Pride participants | 
Photography by Sreejith K Soman

By now the monsoon clouds were gathering fast, darkening the sky. But it felt like even the nature was supporting the cause - throughout the 90 minute walk, not even a drop of rain tried to interrupt us. From the premises of the Kerala High Court, the march commenced with a group of Harleys leading the way. A line of police accompanying on one side to control the participants and traffic, the procession inched forward shouting slogans - “My Body My Right!”, “Section 377 Down Down!” While the band played popular Malayalam and Hindi songs, some participants danced to the tunes, some waved the rainbow flags and colourful balloons; some held the placards with pro-LGBT messages – a visual which was a first for the Kochi public, attracting many curious onlookers. The pride walk finally culminated at the Rajendra Maidan, post which the public meeting and cultural performances were held at the nearby Mahrajas College hall.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
The Head of Alternative Law Forum, Arvind Narain (on the right, holding the flag) | Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
The transgender rights activist, Kalki Subramaniam | Photography by Surjith S Pai

The fifth Kerala Queer Pride march was organized by Queer Pride Keralam – a coalition of approximately 30 organizations working on art, culture, social, human rights and environmental issues. Apart from Ranjini Haridas, this year’s march saw the presence of well-known personalities such as Kalki Subramaniam - the transgender rights activist from Chennai, Shahabaz Aman – the Malayalam playback singer, Rekha Raj – the Dalit rights activist and Arvind Narain – one of the prominent lawyers fighting the Section 377 case in the Supreme Court and the Head of Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore. A memorandum aimed to be presented to the Kerala government, which puts forward the many urgent needs of sexuality minorities of Kerala, was also signed by hundreds of people who attended the public meeting.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Ajay Paul

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: The Fifth Kerala Queer Pride
Photography by Surjith S Pai

To see more photos of the Kochi pride march, click here.

Check out these related posts too!
Why It Is Important For Parents To Tell Their Kids To Be Gay Friendly
My First March For Equality
Bangalore Gay Pride March Montage By Amar Mitra

This post is not over yet! Click here to continue reading.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

CSB Xclusive! Unni Mukundan - The Gay Icon Of South India

2 comments

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Unni Mukundan

Very few would be unaware of Unni Mukundan, the South Indian sensation and heartthrob for girls and guys alike. He came to the silver screen just three years ago, but his popularity has skyrocketed even within such short span, making him one of the most desirable actors in the Malayalam cinema. The reason is simple. Unni represents the current generation's concept of a Malayalee hunk. With his good looks and equally well maintained physique, only very few South Indian actors oozes sexual appeal like him. From playing roles of romantic lead, hero, villain to character roles and even acting as a 60 year old man, Unni has tried to take up wide range of personas in these three years to showcase his versatility.
Crazy Sam's Bloginess
Interestingly, Unni never had an acting background. After completing school, he was working in a call center in Gujarat. But soon he became bored of the monotonous life of BPO. He decided to try his luck in the film industry. “When I was thinking of getting into films, I wanted to be a director because he is the top most authority who takes the shots.” So he searched the contact details of Lohithadas - the well known screenwriter, playwright, director, and producer in Malayalam cinema and forwarded his photographs to him. “Lohithadas Sir replied saying he will call me after 30 days and exactly one month later, he did. I was training under him for almost one and a half years. He offered me a role in his film, but then he suffered a sudden demise.” Unni finally got his debut film in Tamil and ended up playing Prithviraj’s character in the Tamil remake of Malayalam hit, ‘Nandanam.’ (Coincidently, ‘Nandanam’ is Prithviraj’s first movie as well.)

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Unni Mukundan

"Thankfully, I have never been out of work ever since." In fact, Unni Mukundan's dates are already filled with four movies where he is playing the lead. He does only one movie at a time and he has just wrapped up the shooting of ‘The Last Supper’, which will also be showcasing Unni’s physique as never before. “I had to lose almost 15 kilos for the role.” This required him to take up an exhaustive workout routine. He had to burn fat as fast as possible because only few weeks were left post wrapping up the previous film. “I train for two and half hours in the day and another 40 minutes in the evening. I do lots of cardio as well as weight training. Even though I have lost 15 kilos, I have tried to maintain my muscular physique.”

During his school days, Unni used to be slim and he often got bullied by other boys. “I couldn’t stand up for myself because I was so low in my confidence about my physique. I was told I was thin and weak, even though I hardly remember falling sick. This made me introvert and unconfident. I wore full sleeve shirts. I remember I had experienced problems in speaking as well.”
Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Unni Mukundan
It was then Unni’s mother who advised him to start working out to ward off his insecurity feelings. He started exercising at the age of 15. He used all the anger and frustration which he felt towards his bullies to push himself at the gym. Unni says that brought a host of positive changes into his life. “Everything about me improved after I started exercising. My personality, the way I talk, my confidence.. By the time I reached college I was considered as one of the fittest guys around.”

Now exercising is like a meditation for Unni. “I have been in various states of body types that one can label. Skinny, lean, bulky, muscular, athlete, whatever forms you can think of. And I realized if you are trying to please other’s expectations with your physique, you will always be doing only that. One should work out for the sole aim of keeping fit and nothing else. It’s all about conquering yourself by trying to push your limits. And when you succeed in achieving that, it will help you gain confidence in yourself.”
Crazy Sam's Bloginess
Not surprisingly, Unni Mukundan has become the motivation for countless young guys to take up working out seriously. Through the Facebook page managed solely by him, he receives mails of gratitude and appreciation for inspiring them. “It is a great feeling to know that I was a cause of happiness in someone’s life. I started the page to get direct feedback from my viewers. My fans may not be able to meet me or talk to me when they see me in public. But through my page, they will be able to share their frank opinions and suggestions. “

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Unni Mukundan

So does he get messages from gay guys too? “Yes, I do. I appreciate that they see me as a gay icon. Sometimes the messages are very personal and they try to approach in a very emotional way.” But Unni understands that there is nothing to be offended about. “I don’t get repulsed when I receive such messages and I don’t question them why they have to feel that way towards a man. I know it is a natural feeling just the way I would feel for a woman.”
Crazy Sam's Bloginess
The exposure of being bullied and made to feel powerless during childhood makes it easier for Unni to feel all the more for the community. “I know how it feels when someone tries to exert their power on you. I have few gay friends and I realize their life is difficult. But I believe over the course of time, the LGBT community should find the strength to live openly without thinking how others would react. It’s your world that should matter first and then think about others.”

But he also gives a word of caution, “The gay community should be careful about their actions and they should act responsibly. Being a minority, it is a task to get accepted by the society. Their actions today will decide how they will be treated tomorrow, so they have to work towards a better life for their younger brothers.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Unni Mukundan

In future, if Unni is offered the role of a gay character, he says he will be willing to take it ahead. He also hopes that it could help the community in getting the much needed visibility to steer away from the stereotypes that usually gets associated with them. "Personally I feel, a gay character should not be just used for portraying sex. I would like to highlight other emotions and phases of a gay man. Before taking up the role, I would love to sit with a gay guy and understand him, what it is like to live a gay life in India and what he had to go through.”

So is he open to spreading his charm in Bollywood too? “I’m really open to acting in Hindi films. I’m fluent in Hindi because all my childhood and teenage were spent in Gujarat. If I get an interesting script and a proper launch, why not?”

Check out these related posts too! 
CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag 
CSB Xclusive! Nolan Lewis - Mr. Gay India 2013
CSB Xclusive! Rajeev Govinda Pillai

This post is not over yet! Click here to continue reading.


Subscribe To CSB For Free
Recent Comments
Recent CSB Posts
Will be up soon!