An award winning film maker at the age of 22, Mumbai boy Nakshatra Bagwe came out as gay to his parents and the society at quite an early age. A bold and courageous move which led to making Nakshatra’s life a lot easier as his family and society has accepted his identity. He is an active gay rights activist and is working towards awareness of queer communities in India.
In an exclusive talk with LifeBeyondNumbers(LBN), Nakshatra shares his journey for far and his visions ahead.
LBN: At the age of 22, you’ve been an award winning film maker. Tell us about it.
Nakshatra: It started with nothing, almost nothing. On a sleepless night I decided to make a short film. It was a zero budget and one man army style film called ‘Logging Out’. It got selected to KASHISH MIQFF 2012, the biggest queer film festival of South Asia and there I won the audience choice award. It made me feel special as my all competitors were professional filmmakers around the world and mine was a total amateur effort. Later, Logging Out was screened at prestigious venues like the Queens Museum of Arts (New York), The Old Cinema (London) and it was also a part of Queer India European tour 2012 to raise awareness about Indian LGBT issues. This is how I became a debutante award winning filmmaker. The success of my debut film gave me a push to make more films and within a year I made 5 short films. While finishing all the tasks related to film making, the actor in me started coming alive. Recently my acting skills spotted by an international filmmaker and now I have signed up for an international feature film and getting ready for my grand debut.
LBN: In a country as conservative as India, how difficult was it to come out as gay? How did your family react to it? How did the society take it?
Nakshatra: I followed 3 phases of coming out one by one – self acceptance, coming out to family and society. At 16, I was confused when I found out my first emotional and physical attraction towards someone and it was not a girl. I failed to understand myself as I was in a small village and there was not a single resource available to get information about my behavior. One year I lived in that small village with the confusion but I started accepting myself emotionally with no rational support until I moved back to Mumbai. I read many articles regarding homosexuality and rational reasoning started happening. I wanted to meet and communicate with other people like me so I joined gay dating sites and I found out that there are many people like me and my confidence started building up. The same year, I told my parents about my sexuality and of course it followed by the great Indian drama. They thought it’s a phase and I will move out of this but in reality everything happened the other way around. I started being confident as a person and proudly talked about my sexuality. After the struggle of 5 years, my family has accepted me as they finally see me finding my ways and getting success. I came out to the society when I was 21 through a media appearance and people accepted it with a positive attitude. I told myself ‘Be the Change you want to see in the world’. I come out to people very often and I never ever faced rejection from anyone. If you are confident about yourself then there is no scope for people to make you feel like a sinner. Many homosexuals use emotional approach while coming out which I have never used. I never made my coming out to look like I am begging for acceptance. I always made a statement and I was not bothered if they accept it or not but they did accept it! I personally believe ‘It’s not your sexuality but your work and talent that gains you respect’.
LBN: Your films are focused on homosexuality and queer community awareness in India. How have they been received and reacted upon?
Nakshatra: My films highlight realities of queer community and the majority of my films create awareness about homosexuality with flavor of activism. I believe in showing these films to a section which is having wrong perceptions about the queer community. I don’t create any new story for my films; I try to depict what is already there through my observations and experiences. I often get trapped within two roles as a filmmaker and a proud gay person. I always make sure that I portray queer community in an exact manner, spread awareness but at the same time I don’t want to compromise on the story which filmmaker in me has to tell. Despite lacking technological advancements my films are well received in the queer community all around the world. People say the success of my film-making is my simple approach and my understanding of human emotions and aspirations, and I agree with them. Now I am trying to reach mainstream festivals of India as I believe queer cinema is no more part of ‘etc’ section. We have reached a stage where we watch films as a film or a form of art rather than labeling film on its theme.
LBN: You are now an active gay rights activist. Tell us more about your work in this area.
Nakshatra: It has only just begun, I still see myself at a beginner level. I started by participating in various homosexuality awareness projects like flash mobs, national and international research studies, online campaigns and even my own films. I also got associated with local gay groups and we organize various events, workshops and seminar for the community people to give them support and friendly environment. I am currently a part of the organizing team of Gujarat’s first ever pride march and I am enjoying it. I think the best activism one can ever do is create awareness on one to one basis. I come out to almost each and everyone to whom I meet and till date I have 100% successful coming out rate. It is not flaunting a tag about my sexuality but I feel people need to know the reality of queer community. Enough of stereotypes! People around me feel I am a promising queer right activist in the making and I am glad I started this at a very young age.
LBN: Can you talk about your personal views about homosexuality, the controversies and diverse reactions surrounding this topic?
Nakshatra: People believe a bad incident in your childhood makes you gay. I don’t know how true is that? In my case it is not applicable at all. I am born gay and my childhood was picture perfect. I just hate it when a child who is merely 2-3 years old, his/her parents start dreaming about his/her marriage. Stop taking the sexuality of your children for granted. We Indians really make our lives worse by bringing religion and politics into social issues. I urge all of them who think it’s a western phenomenon to visit some old Indian sculptures like Khajuraho. I no more agree that the queer community is a minority. Do not judge us by seeing the number of people who walked the pride march. The day when a really huge section of closet queers will break their fear and come out there then we might call heterosexuals a minority. There are so many stereotypes about queer community and these stereotypes will be broken when people start coming out of the closet. Being out and loud, I really wish others should also come out and talk about equal rights. At the same time I tell myself to be patient and give them some time. However, the time has come to bring a change.
LBN: What are your aspirations in regards to getting married, having a family? What is your view on section 377?
Nakshatra: I would love to marry with the man of my dreams in a total Desi way with all the rituals followed by a grand reception and a romantic honeymoon in Ireland. I seek a relationship like my parents but an improved version where we can talk freely and do not try to mould each other into specific roles. I like kids but I will give preference to adoption of pets. It’s comparatively pretty easy for me to get married and settle in a country where gay marriages are legal because of the support of my family. But I prefer to stay in India and be part of this queer activism and contribute to queer rights movement through my own little ways.
The section 377 was imposed upon the Indian society by the colonizers based on their moral values. Why are we not able to come out of the shadows of the British even after 66 years? Finally, we are really hoping to have a positive decision on section 377 this year Justice G.S. Singhvi, who is handling this case in Supreme Court, will be retiring. So we may receive the decision soon. He is due to retire on 11th December 2013, which is incidentally my birthday and I hope Justice Singhvi will give me the best birthday present ever.
Nakshatra’s movies can be viewed on his YouTube channel @ www.YouTube.com/nakshbs
Team LifeBeyondNumbers congratulates Nakshatra on his achievements so far and wishes the best for a great future ahead!