Wednesday, November 27, 2013

CSB Promotion - Pandora's Box

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Promotion - Pandora's Box

It’s not that often we get to see plays touching upon gay theme. But a group of young budding amateur artists will be showcasing their latest play - ‘Pandora’s Box’, this Saturday in Mumbai, which aims to present the universal theme of love from a queer perspective. This young team calls themselves Metamorphosis to express art in different forms but with a meaning and perspective, and to deconstruct the stereotypes and norms. Pandora’s Box is the team’s second outing after the success of their debut play - Quest, which had run to packed audience.

The plot of Pandora’s Box revolves around the randomness of life and exploring different forms of love – the one that is innocent, the one that is a fairy tale, the one that has a thought behind, the one that vacillates between friendship and commitment, and the one that results out of loneliness and seclusion. The protagonist spends a particular night contemplating and reminiscing about the days long gone by. And as he looks back into his past, the letters, calendars, pictures and posters all come to life making him recall the good and the bad.
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Promotion - Pandora's Box

Omkar Bhatkar who has written, directed and also acted in Pandora’s Box feels that he is taking a risk by venturing into a topic that could be palatable to only a few. He says, “To even think of writing Pandora’s Box was very challenging. Already the audience who watches theatre plays is niche and then you write a play from a queer perspective. So how many would really like to invest that kind of time, effort and money to watch such plays? But I believe it’s an important story that needs to be told even if there are only few people willing to witness it.”

The team staged a raw version of Pandora’s Box at auditions for Thespo, an annual youth theatre festival and they were pleasantly surprised to see that it had moved several members of the audience to tears. Judging from the reviews received, the cast and crew realized that this play was meant for everyone. “Eventually it’s a universal theme of love. It can be presented from a queer perspective, but also can be easily identified from any perspective,” Omkar opines.

The team Metamorphosis comprises of medical students, engineers, architects, models as well as theatre actors. But what brings these people of different occupations and backgrounds is their passion for acting and theatre.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Promotion - Pandora's Box

Pandora’s Box will be staged this Saturday, November 30th at Temperence, Next to Rizvi College of Hotel Management, Bandra West, Mumbai. 

The play performance is restricted to an adult audience. 

For Tickets: 
The tickets are priced at Rs. 200/- for 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. show.
You can call 09833587470, 09821173756, 09930936865 for tickets.
Tickets can also be collected from the venue till Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out these related posts too!
CSB Promotion - Chennai Rainbow Festival 2013
CSB Promotion - KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013
CSB Promotion: Queer Ink Offer For CSB Readers!

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Why It Is Important For Parents To Tell Their Kids To Be Gay Friendly

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One of my colleagues recently stated that gays are always sentimental, depressed and emotional; as if these conditions are natural if one is gay. But were we born with these conditions? No! They were inflicted upon us knowingly or unknowingly, which if we trace back to our childhood, will help us to understand.

I began to get confused about my sexuality when I was around 7. There was something that got me attracted to men at that very early age. And I didn't know there could be the remotest possibility that there are other guys who are experiencing the same. The visuals and texts around me suggested that a man is to be paired with a woman. The thought that I could be the sole person in this world to have such thoughts and not knowing where to seek help could be one of the early traumas I had to go through. I remember the numerous conversations I had in my mind talking to God, begging to throw some light. What I ended up receiving was more and more chaos. Why many gay men are prone to high level of anxieties and depression episodes? This chaos could have probably caused that. When we were kids, our tender mind was subjected to multiple levels of internal battle, more than it could handle. And we didn't know how to reach out to our parents for help, because we doubted whether they would understand us or the worst case, they could stop loving us.

Studies suggest that in the absence of a reliable caring adult, such intense trauma could lead to disturbing the neurochemical balance in the brain, decreased brain growth, and negatively impacting the neuronal pathways. The after-effect of these developments are long term which means they will be carried throughout a kid’s adulthood resulting in low self esteem, depression, anxiety, social and attention problems, behavioural disabilities etc. 

Such self-inflicted emotional abuse can be the most dangerous form of all abuses. It makes them weak within, not able to protect themselves, not able to stand up for themselves. This insecurity could in turn attract bullies and sexual predators seeing that they are an easy target, leaving them exposed to even more traumatic episodes. By the time, the kid attains adulthood, the mind is scarred beyond repair and the aforementioned after-effects keep haunting him. Add to that the social stigma, the pressure to lead a double life, the nagging of parents and relatives to get married - the world doesn't appear rosy at all for most of the homosexuals. 

These vicious series of events can be prevented to a large extent by the people whom the child searches for when he feels scared or threatened. The parents. 

At a time when parents are given the responsibility to give their children the first sex education (from the age of 3 onwards), it is utmost important that they discuss about sexuality and tell them to be gay friendly. The benefits of this approach can work out in two ways. 

One. If the child indeed turns out to be gay, he wouldn't have to go through the endless circle of emotional trauma. He knows where to reach out to when faced with perplexity. Knowing that his parents doesn't love him any less can give him the strength from within, the ability to face the world without any underlying turbulence, and lends him the emotional health equal to that of his straight peers. Not to forget that only when one is sound emotionally can he invest in deep love and healthy relationships. 

Two. If the child is straight, he has already got a clarity on gays from the people whom he considers as reliable source, leaving no room for misconceptions about homosexuality. The chances of him turning out to be homophobic would be minimal and would not face the mental block in accepting gays as equals. 

Therefore, as you see, the solution lies within the home. 

And now ponder upon how this solution is inherently present in the case of gay parents..

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Why It Is Important For Parents To Tell Their Kids To Be Gay Friendly
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka with their kids

Check out these related posts too!
My First March For Equality 
Bangalore Gay Pride March Montage By Amar Mitra 
The Great Indian Mainstreaming Of Homosexuality

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

I Want Mr. Gay India To Walk The Talk: Nolan Lewis

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Photography by Marc Drofmans

Life has taken a fabulous upswing for Nolan Lewis - Mr. Gay India 2013, after his return from this year's Mr. Gay World (MGW), which was held at Antwerp, Belgium in August. Even though Mr. Gay New Zealand, Christopher Colwage was adjudged as Mr. Gay World 2013, Nolan was among the Top Ten finalists. He was also one of the favourites for the international media since everyone was curious to hear from the Indian representative and understand the Indian LGBT landscape. As part of the pageant activities, Nolan created a picturesque collage of Indian LGBT icons featuring Ashok Row Kavi, Wendell Rodricks, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Shakuntala Devi, which is now on permanent display at Antwerp's LGBTI archive.

The MGW organization has also conferred him the title, 'Founder - Mr. Gay World India' to kick start the annual Mr. Gay India pageant from next year. In an exclusive interview for CSB readers, Nolan shares his MGW experience, his vision for the upcoming Mr. Gay India pageant, and how his world has changed for the better post MGW 2013.

Nolan Lewis was featured in the popular CSB Xclusive! series early this year. Click here to reach the post.
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Photography by Andrea Fernandes

Crazy Sam (CS): Last time when we spoke, you were facing challenges financially and also searching for a designer. How did it all come together for you?
Nolan Lewis (NL): I believe in [Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewisthe saying that ‘when you make a wish, the universe conspires to make things come true.’ I remember how hard times were when we spoke last. I didn’t have the money to fund a ticket or the wardrobe for the pageant. I utilized the savings that I had, but also there were friends who contributed towards my airfare because they could see how noble my cause was.

Wendell Rodricks helped me put together my National Costume. He sent me a beautiful open-front lime green jacket from Goa a few days before I left for MGW13. You can’t believe how excited I was to see it! 

CS: What was your feeling on the first day when you landed at Antwerp?
NL: The delegates from all across the world had already added each other on various social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, months before the pageant. Landing into Antwerp felt like a reunion of sorts, because we were just picking up conversations where we had left them online. We were like a bunch of school kids, hugging and screaming! It was really funny!

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Image courtesy: Mr. Gay World

CS: How did everyone react when you told them that you represent India? Did you have to correct anyone on some misconceptions that the world has about our country?
NL: India has very interesting stories to tell, because we still are in the nascent stages of defining LGBT rights. Everyone admired my courage and the determination I displayed despite all the odds that stood against me. I was surprised because even the international media had been following my story and had so many interesting questions to ask mainly because most countries have a strong Indian community across the world, and they were eager to see India participate in a gay pageant!

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner The West still perceives India as an enchanted land with elephants and snake-charmers. I had to laugh and tell many people that it’s been a decade since I saw an elephant on the streets of Mumbai. Unfortunately, the alarming number of crimes towards women was also highlighted and that was one of the questions asked to me by the judges. I answered their questions to the best of my ability but it was not an easy spot to be in. 

CS: Can you tell me something about the collage you made?
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Click the above photograph to view the collage

NL: “Looking through Pink Glasses” was the arts challenge that every delegate at Mr. Gay World had to present. We had to make an exhibit of what homosexuality was like in our country. I created a sepia Bollywood poster that was distinctly Indian with all the LGBT icons such as Ashok Row Kavi, Wendell Rodricks, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Shakuntala Devi on it. It was a chronographic timeline on how the scene in India has changed over the centuries and it was very well received. All the exhibits are now on permanent display in Antwerp’s LGBTI archive. Please stop by if you ever visit the city.

CS: What were the thoughts going in your mind while you were standing there on the pageant platform?
NL: There was very little time to think because the actual pageant felt like a beautifully choreographed musical! You must YouTube Mr. Gay World 2013 to see more. We were either dancing to the Baywatch theme song for the swimsuit round or a Lady Gaga medley for the club wear round. When it announced that I made it to the Top Ten finalists, I breathed a sigh of relief! I knew I had set a new record for India. I can proudly say that I’ve changed LGBTI Indian history. I’m hoping that in a few years from now, India will be crowned Mr. Gay World.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Image courtesy: Mr. Gay World

CS: You have been assigned as the MGW representative to choose the next Mr. Gay India. How does it feel to shoulder this responsibility? What will you be doing different this time?
NL: Believe it or not, Mr. Gay World receives hundreds of applications from India every year! Isn’t it only fair that we organize an annual pageant and that the winner goes to the World pageant via a national competition?
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Mr. Gay India sounds like a prospect that is daunting and exciting both at the same time. What motivates me is the idea of creating a positive role model for young gay men in India. We didn’t have positive gay role models to look up to in our times, we do now.

I’m busy brainstorming means on how we can organize Mr. Gay India as an annual pageant here. Apart from sponsorship and finances, that also means crossing several legal and social hurdles. I get panic attacks just thinking about the same. Luckily, Mr. Gay World is an amazing mentor and there are several international LGBT activists as guides to help me through.

CS: What are the qualities that you look for from the next Mr. Gay India? What do you think we should improve upon to win the MGW title?
NL: Mr. Gay India needs to be a Perfect Ten. Beautiful inside-out. There needs to be an added emphasis on being aware of LGBTI issues around the world and having an opinion on the same. There’s no point in appointing a winner unless he delivers. At the end of each year, I’ll be asking the winner, “What did you do for LGBTI India? Show me tangible results.” Talking the talk is one thing; I want Mr. Gay India to walk the talk. I struggled so much with arranging my finances and wardrobe for the pageant, that I didn’t focus as much on my fitness and preparation as much as I’d liked. I like Mr. Gay India 2014 to have all of that taken care of, so that he can focus on presenting himself at the world pageant.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Image courtesy: Mr. Gay World

CS: Any funny incident from MGW that still makes you laugh?
NL: Oh my god! I’m glad you asked! As the photos suggest, I wore my hair long at the pageant. There was this time where the delegates were waiting backstage to inaugurate the opening of the OutGames, the international LGBT community’s response to the Olympics. I was looking quite flustered because it had been a long day. David Montes, Mr. Gay Mexico was standing behind me and started combing my hair with his fingers just so that I would calm down. Little did we know that we had video cameras recording us and playing simultaneously on the big-screen on the stage! I saw the audience laughing hysterically and pointing at me. It was so embarrassing. I wished the earth would open up and swallow me alive!

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Image courtesy: Mr. Gay World

CS: So how has your world changed post MGW?
NL: I think MGW13 was my coming of age. MGW has changed my life in so many ways. As of today, I am Mr. Gay India 2013, but I am also ‘Founder - Mr. Gay World India.’ The amount of international recognition and appreciation I have received has been overwhelming. Magazines and TV channels all the way from Amsterdam to Australia were interested in what LGBT India has to say, and I’m honoured to be one of the spokespersons for the same.

I work as tarot reader and a crystal healer. I couldn’t help but notice a difference in the rise of number of my LGBT clientele after the pageant.

B&O Amazing Cruises has appointed me as their Indian Brand Ambassador. B&O Amazing Cruises offers cruises custom-made to meet the needs of the gay and lesbian traveler  LGBT travel is still a fairly new concept in India. You can log on to www.amazingcruises.eu for more details on how you can create a memorable cruise experience as a gay traveler.

Also, without divulging too many details, I’ll be starring in a film with an acclaimed international filmmaker soon. Look out for me in a cinema near you sometime next year!

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Photography by Andrea Fernandes

CS: Thank you Nolan for your time. I’m glad to know that MGW13 has opened up a lot of opportunities for you. Anything you wish to add before we wrap up?
NL: I’m here chatting with you, Sam, and I’m at a zenith. Even though I contested a gay pageant, there was no social or political backlash as we had earlier feared. In fact, my life has only changed for the better. My advice to the LGBT youth of today is to come out and embrace your identity. Closets are so 1988!

Several studies estimate that we have approximately 3 million LGBT individuals in India. If we stand together and speak as a community, archaic laws such as section 377 would only be an unpleasant memory. Trust me, our children are going to be laughing at the idea that we even had laws that stigmatizes homosexuality. It’s ridiculous!

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Nolan Lewis
Image courtesy: Mr. Gay World

Check out these related posts too! 
CSB Xclusive! Nolan Lewis - Mr. Gay India 2013
CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner
CSB In Conversation With Ronald N. Tan

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner
[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner
Long time CSB followers must be familiar with Dan Skinner, his exquisite works of photography have been showcased here  before. He has been a photographer for the last 15 years where his work is featured in various book covers and magazines such as DNA and Beautiful Mag to name a few. Through his works, Dan aims to show gay romance in the same light and venue as straight romance had been for years; with equal beauty and sensitivity and sensuality. 

Dan has also now ventured into writing. His first novel ‘Coverboy’ was released for Dreamspinner Press in 2008. Now after a gap of 5 years, he has come out with his latest romantic fiction titled ‘Memorizing You.’ From the woods of Maryland Heights in Missouri, Dan shares his thoughts with CSB readers about his experience of writing 'Memorizing You', what he wishes to bring to the readers through this novel, his experience of being a gay man and his upcoming projects.

Crazy Sam (CS): ‘Memorizing You’ is being released after a gap of 5 years since your last novel. How did the ideation start? 
Dan Skinner (DS): There was a large gap between novels because I became inundated with photography work. I had actually begun the plot work for ‘Memorizing You’ right after ‘Coverboy’, but got sidelined by the shoots. It was worthwhile though. Many of them ended up being featured by magazines like Blake and Horizon, DNA and Beautiful Mag. I actually got back to putting words down for ‘Memorizing You’ about a year ago because I had a few more gaps of time to myself and the story actually began invading my dreams. That was a sign to me that it had to get done. 

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner

CS: How was the experience in writing this book? 
DS: The experience actually was quite life altering. One of my characters who love to run had that trait because I used to love to run. It helped me relieve stress and think, and I hadn't done it in years. Well, in writing it, I developed that urge to get out and run again, and now I'm addicted. I get up every morning at three-thirty and hit the streets before the sun comes up. On the psychological side, it brought back a lot of my real reasons of why I got into photography - the mission I had to show that homosexual love was just as beautiful and romantic as heterosexual love. I was just using [Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinnerwords to convey the message this time. 

With ‘Memorizing You’, I wrote with the perspective of talking to a mainstream audience. This is a love story, like all love stories told before it.. but with two men. I want anyone who has read any of these other romances to be able to read this one and be touched in their hearts, minds and souls in the exact manner as all the other love stories. I want them to walk away feeling that love is the greatest thing, the most life-altering thing, and the most memorable thing of being alive. I want people who are gay, who reads it to know that love chooses us... not the other way around. 

CS: Could you share a brief synopsis of the novel? 
DS: ‘Memorizing You’ is a coming of age tale that unfolds against the colourful, stylish, and turbulent backdrop of free love, revolution, and The Beatles. 

Two high school boys from different walks of life - Ryan, a handsome athlete, and David, an average joe from a blue collar family, discover their desires, stealing their kisses under the cover of an old oak at night. Their love begins a secret life, hidden from their families, friends, and classmates. As their passion grows, so does the danger of their discovery. Their only hope is to create a separate world where every kiss is a treasure and every moment... memorable. 

First love. Secret love. Unforgettable love.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner

CS: For whom do you recommend this novel to? 
DS: This is a book for everyone. I wrote it so all age groups could enjoy it. It is truly an old-fashioned, heart-rending tale of first love and romance; of self-discovery and awareness of one's sexual identity. I recommend that people buy it to read to their lover or partner at bedtime. Or someone who wants to relive that first moment that they knew they were spellbound by the magic of love. Or those who want to know what it will feel like when it does happen. That's the type of book it is. It makes you believe that, no matter what, we are all destined to love.. and it will change everything in us when it happens. 

CS: And how has been the initial feedback? 
DS: The feedback has been wonderful. I've got a lot of five star reviews and many personal letters from folks who loved that it was [Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinnertruly an old fashioned romance. 

CS: Currently is it available only on Kindle? Any plans to publish it? 
DS: I haven't got that far in my thinking. It depends on sales. I don't think there's a lot of demand for actual hold-in-your-hand books today. I see everybody reading on their electronic devices. And truthfully, that may save a lot of trees. LOL! 

CS: So how did you start photography and writing? 
DS: I've been doing photography forever it seems. Can't remember the number of years but well over twenty. Did fitness photography, then covers for mainstream "straight" romance novels before turning to M/M romance photography in 2008. My first novel, ‘Coverboy’ was released in 2008. I wrote long before that, but nothing of this type of length.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner [Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner

CS: Being 48, could you let us know the changes you have witnessed over the decades in terms of life for a homosexual man? 
DS: I've seen a lot of changes over the years in social acceptance of homosexuality. When I was a teenager it was still a curse word, still hidden. But we all still existed, found each other and had our places to get together. They were pretty hidden, holes in the wall type places. Year by year, as the media made it more visible with shows like Will & Grace, and more gay characters in films, I've seen the culture become more tolerant. I don't think we are there yet. I still hear people using the word “gay" as a derogatory term, but we're getting better. Now with marriage equality making strides forward, I have a lot more hope that one day a married gay couple will be as mundane as a married straight couple. 

CS: And what projects are keeping you busy these days? 
DS: Lots of photography projects in the works. The next month I have three already scheduled. I also have already completed two other novels which will be proofed and then go into editing. One is an erotic novel entitled, ‘The Bible Boys’, and the other is another romantic fiction ala a combination of a gay Lolita and Death In Venice entitled, ‘Vicarious’. All the books are quite different in nature because I like to explore different aspects of my own psyche.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB In Conversation With Dan Skinner

You can buy ‘Memorizing You’ from Amazon (Kindle Edition) by clicking here

The photographs showcased in this post are independent creations of Dan Skinner and are not part of ‘Memorizing You.’ You can click on them to see their unedited high resolution versions. 

To see more of Dan's work, visit his gallery

Check out these related posts too!

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag

Nav Sihag may not have walked the ramps or graced the glossy pages of fashion magazines; but going by his online fan following, the absence of those factors do not seem to get in the way of his immense popularity. Scores of men and women just adore the photos that he puts on his Facebook and Tumblr blog, even attracting the attention of many fashion photographers.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag
When asked about how all this makes him feel, Nav says, “I feel glad to know that my hard work has paid off. Even though I wanted to become a fitness model, I didn’t have anyone to guide me. I had to promote myself because I had no idea where to go or what to do.” In fact, Nav was also not fortunate to hire a professional photographer for his shoots. He and his friend shoot photographs using a Nikon D40, which he reveals are taken without any makeup or stylist.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag
Crazy Sam's Bloginess
Nav Sihag is a certified personal trainer and has also done wrestling for a brief period. Now 23, he started working out during his teen years. “Due to my family's sports background, I used to do exercise and jogging, but I started doing them professionally only 2 years ago.” Currently on a goal of putting on more muscles to qualify for fitness model, Nav is undergoing rigorous training under the eyes of the two times Mr. Haryana title winner, Ravinder Kumar.

His training routine extends up to two – three hours a day, which is split between morning and evening sessions. He also supplements the work out with a balanced diet comprising of carbohydrates, protein, fibre and fats. During his free time, Nav loves to swim and hangout with his close friends. He is a great admirer of the Italian actress and fashion model, Monica Bellucci. "I have watched her movie - Malèna. I find her very sensual and erotic, but in a very artistic way."

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag [Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag

Nav is aware that gay men makes up major chunk of his long list of fan followers. So as a straight man, how does he feel when gay guys compliment on his looks and physique? “It feels good, but sometimes they overpraise.”  He has few gay guys as friends and he is of the opinion that gay community deserves to be treated equally. “A lot of people think that gays are not natural. But I believe there is nothing unnatural about them and they also form a part of our society. If I get any opportunity to do something for the LGBT family, I will do it for sure!”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: CSB Xclusive! Nav Sihag


Click on the above pics to see their high resolution unedited versions. 
Nav Sihag interacts with his fans and showcases his photos at his Tumblr blog.

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

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

CSB Promotion - Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013
Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013 Poster

It is inspiriting to see that like gay parades, we are beginning to witness the trend of each city hosting their version of queer film fests. This year, Bangalore hosted theirs in February, Mumbai in May and now Chennai will be buzzing with the Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013 from June 7th till June 9th at Alliance Francaise of Madras, Nungambakkam. 

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013
Vikrant Prasanna, Founder of Chennai Dost
The film festival is organized by Chennai Dost - a major support group for Gay, Bisexual men and women in Chennai along with Alliance Francaise of Madras. “We came up with this initiative to provide a venue for screening the works of established and emerging film makers who portray our community in a positive and affirmative light,” says Vikrant Prasanna, Founder of Chennai Dost. “Many of these films may not otherwise see distribution in area theatres.” 

Apart from film screenings, the festival will see LGBT themed Photo/Art Exhibition, panel discussion, cultural performance and award ceremonies.

The Chennai Rainbow Film Festival aims to counter issues of invisibility and misinformation by providing a forum for discussing the films in a social and political context. On June 8th, a panel discussion has been planned to discuss about the media portrayal of LGBT community which will see panellists from film, theatre, television and literature fields. On the same day, the organizers will be honouring the media, film and art fraternity with ‘Rainbow Ambassador’ awards. The eminent Director, Film Maker and Cinematographer, Balu Mahendra will be presenting the awards to personalities who have supported and contributed in bringing out the issues and challenges faced by the Indian LGBT community. 

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013
Apsara Reddy, Senior Editor of Deccan Chronicle (right) launches 
the logo of Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013 on April 14th

This year more than 100 entries were received and close to 30 films and documentaries have been shortlisted for screening. On the final day, awards will be presented to the best short films/documentaries in Tamil, India and International categories. 

Narthagi, a Tamil feature film showcasing the journey of an adolescent boy who transforms into a transgender and the trauma he goes through in the process of discovering himself, has been chosen as the closing film of the festival. Explaining the rationale behind the selection, Prasanna says, “Narthagi is the first feature length film in Tamil on issues faced by transgenders and it was released in 2011 after several barriers. We wish to pay our respect for the effort put by the team of Narthagi in bringing the movie onto the silver screen and also encourage more such films to be produced in Tamil.” 

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Chennai Rainbow Film Festival 2013
A still from 'Narthagi'

The Chennai Rainbow Film Festival also marks CSB’s very first official partnership with an LGBT event. For complete schedule of the festival click here. Entry is free and open for all.

Check out these related posts too!

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CSB Promotion - KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013
KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013 Poster

It’s been only 4 years since Sridhar Rangayan, the director of LGBT themed films – ‘The Pink Mirror’ and ‘Yours Emotionally’, has started organizing KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. But it has already transformed into an important annual event in Mumbai’s cultural calendar. Not just Mumbaikars, the festival receives audience from other cities as well. People like Manas Modi, a Bangalore resident, will be traveling to Mumbai this week to attend the festival. “I will be reaching Mumbai on Friday evening so that I can at least catch the films screened on Saturday and Sunday.

This sort of euphoria is heartening to see since it signifies the willingness of the people to invest time and effort for LGBT events in India, and also the fact that such events are earning as much visibility and importance as any other mainstream event. Sridhar reveals that a sizable population of straight folks also attend the festival. “Last year, almost 32 percent of the attendees were non-LGBT, comprising of students, film buffs and academicians.“ And there is a valid factor which is making this possible. Sridhar explains, “KASHISH is the first and only LGBT film festival in India to be held in a mainstream theatre and one of the first queer festivals to receive clearance from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This is enabling us to reach out to large number of audience.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013
Sridhar Rangayan, Festival Director of KASHISH Film Festival

For this year’s edition, the organizers have received a whooping 300 submissions; out of which, 132 films from 40 countries are selected for screening. They were also pleasantly surprised to see submissions coming from conservative countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Serbia and Israel. Each year KASHISH honours one country to appreciate and acknowledge efforts made by other countries producing qualitative queer cinema. This year, the focus will be on China where LGBT movies from China will be featured in the ‘Country Focus’ package. Sridhar opines, “Mainstream cinema from China has already made its mark, but a small group of filmmakers are making films on queer themes. These films are often made underground and with great ingenuity. Our efforts at KASHISH this year is to showcase these films and the brave filmmakers.”

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival 2013
Movies from China will be featured in the ‘Country Focus’ package

Since its debut in 2010, KASHISH has become one of the biggest LGBT film festivals in India and South Asia, helping people to open their minds by challenging their beliefs and notions. Sridhar Rangayan understands that as each edition comes by, the benchmark for bringing awareness and entertainment keeps getting higher. “KASHISH is no more just a film festival, but an annual cultural experience, and we hope to live up to it!”
 
KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival is scheduled to be held on May 22-26, 2013 at Cinemax Versova in Andheri West and at Alliance Francaise de Bombay, Theosophy Hall, 40 New Marine Lines - Churchgate from May 23-25, 2013.

For complete schedule of the festival, click here.
To check out the ten not to be missed films of KASHISH 2013, click here.
For information on the films featured in 'Country Focus', click here
For complete list on insightful discussions and conversations apart from the film screenings, click here.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Homosexuality in 'Bombay Talkies' - 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward

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[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Homosexuality in Bombay Talkies - 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward

Karan Johar’s segment in ‘Bombay Talkies’ - Ajeeb Dastaan Hain Yeh, seemed to offer promising image overhaul on gays, trying to steer away from the conventional portrayal widely embraced by the storytellers of Bollywood. For once, the gay character is not flamboyant, limp-wristed or feminine. Rather, he is a confident young man, not ashamed of his sexuality. The opening scene shows him barging to the bedroom where his father (who had banished him from the house for being gay) is sleeping and pulling him out of the bed and screaming at him, “Main chhakaa nahi hoon! Main homosexual hoon! Naa chhakka hona galat hai, na homosexual!” (I am not an eunuch! I am a homosexual! Neither it is wrong to be an eunuch, nor to be a homosexual!) And later when he reveals himself to his female colleague that he is gay, she doesn't appear shocked - the reason being, “Gay ho, terrorist nahi.” (You are gay, not a terrorist.) The segment also features a lip-lock between two men, which is considered as a daring and progressive attempt.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Homosexuality in Bombay Talkies - 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward
A still from Bombay Talkies - Ajeeb Dastaan Hain Yeh

It is for these illustrations the gay community and the Bollywood critics are applauding Karan for sensitively handling the angle of homosexuality. But if you analyze carefully, the story has far-reaching dangerous repercussions because it plays with the idea of trust. When it shows that the gay guy is having no boundaries by hitting on his female colleague’s husband, it sends out the message that one needs to be careful when befriending gays. And sadly, it tries to seed homophobia among the one group whom gay men have always felt comfortable opening up to – the women; it warns them gay men could be potential boyfriend/husband stealers and home-wreckers, so better stay away from them.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Homosexuality in Bombay Talkies - 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward
A still from Bombay Talkies - Ajeeb Dastaan Hain Yeh

Bollywood has used homosexuality in innumerable ways – to add laughter, to induce shock value, to bring tragedy. But rarely has anyone attempted to empathize with them. What is this need to depend on showcasing us as a group who is defective or deviant in one form or the other? This is a group which is suffering not because they are defective, not because they are unnatural, not because they are abnormal; but only because the society is prejudiced due to the various misconceptions surrounding them - movies being a great vehicle for propagating such delusions. 

If a certain religion or community or caste is shown in a bad light in our movies, the respective groups are quick to demand the director to remove the disgracing dialogues or scenes. But in this case, the gay community themselves get divided in their opinions because some just see the “outer picture”; few care to analyze the long-run implications. The movie is a cleverly camouflaged attempt to seed homophobia. When I posted about Dostana years ago on the gross characterization of homosexuality, there were many who tried to make me see why it was the best thing that has happened for Indian gays. Funny, now I see many views on how Karan Johar has redeemed himself, while admitting Dostana indeed had badly depicted gays and how this was a wonderful change from him. Majority of the Bollywood outings, such as this one, brings out the slant that one is not entitled to lead a happy satisfied and committed life if he is gay, unlike how straights receive a happy ending for their love stories.

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Homosexuality in Bombay Talkies - 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward
A still from Bombay Talkies - Ajeeb Dastaan Hain Yeh

One can argue that Bollywood is in an experimental phase where straight relationships are also used for bringing out the various unconventional themes, so why not on homosexuality? Again, one needs to understand we are talking about a minority group who is struggling to find acceptance and at the receiving end of severe homophobia. Even Bollywood played safe while narrating love stories of heroes and heroines, where lip-locks were replaced by birds and flowers. It had invested sufficient period in exploring the plethoric emotions of love before plunging into the more sexually visible forms. We have Mughal-E-Azam, Devdas, Aradhna, Kagaz Ke Phool and so many countless movies immortalizing love, but what do we have for depicting homosexual relations apart from the scenes of sex and lust?

[Image] Crazy Sam's Bloginess: Homosexuality in Bombay Talkies - 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Backward
A still from Bombay Talkies - Ajeeb Dastaan Hain Yeh

Karan Johar’s story is two steps forward in terms of how mainstream actors are now daring enough to take up homosexual roles and how censor board didn't feel the need to chop out the gay kiss, but it is a step backward in terms of bringing positive representation for a highly marginalized community.

For the uninitiated: 'Bombay Talkies' is a 2013 Indian anthology film consisting of four short films, directed by Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Karan Johar. The film was released on May 3, 2013, coinciding with and celebrating the centenary year of Indian cinema.

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