Not People Like Us

Gay and Proud

Rajeev Masand is Entertainment Editor and film critic at CNN-IBN
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Next Stop in Hollywood • There’s No Free Dessert

Manoj Bajpayee is being hailed for his performance as a lonely 64-year-old professor persecuted for being gay in Hansal Mehta’s new film Aligarh. Praise has come in from many quarters, including from members of the LGBT community who have thanked him for his sensitive portrayal of a homosexual, and for eschewing the usual stereotypes.

But Bajpayee and his director have revealed that the actor wasn’t always so confident of playing gay. Years ago, right after he broke out as the Next Big Thing in Satya, Mehta had wanted to cast the actor as a gay man in a short film that he was making at the time, but Bajpayee declined. “Those were different times. I had finally found work after a long struggle, and I didn’t want to risk losing it. Everybody tells you that playing a homosexual is career suicide, and I was too new to challenge that,” the actor admitted to me recently. He also hastened to add that he was never personally prejudiced about playing a gay character, but the landscape of the Hindi film industry at the time was “not conducive to such bold steps”.

When Mehta came to him with Aligarh two years ago, Bajpayee was at a different place in his career, and the industry had changed too. “Besides, the film is about so much more. It’s about loneliness, about intrusion into one’s privacy, about dignity,” he explained. He is thankful for the thumbs up he has received for his performance from the gay community, and added that he is proud he could represent them respectfully.

Next Stop in Hollywood

After presenting at the Oscars last Sunday, Priyanka Chopra quickly slipped into something a little more comfortable but just as glamorous when she showed up at a Vanity Fair party later that evening. The celebrations, however, were brief. PC was chauffeured straight to the airport where she boarded a flight to Miami so she could begin shooting Baywatch with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron the next morning.

Priyanka, who seems determined to create opportunities for herself that few Indians have had a shot at before her, also recently wrapped principal photography on the first season of Quantico. According to sources close to the actress, she’s been huddled in meetings with her ‘guardian angel’ Anjula Acharia-Bath (widely regarded as the architect of PC’s international career) to plan her next move after Baywatch. Word is that Priyanka is more interested in seeking out interesting movie parts over returning for Season 2 of her ABC series. She also wants to spend at least a few months each year making a movie or two in India.

There’s No Free Dessert

The owner of a popular patisserie in Juhu insists that she’s had it with this film star’s wife who’s made it a habit to stroll into her establishment, stock up on her weekly requirement of cakes and pastries, and leave without paying. The staff at the store is reportedly ‘too scared’ to ask the big shot to pay, and what used to be an occasional visit has become a frequent occurrence now.

The owner says she turned a blind eye initially because she took it for a tacit understanding that the star-wife would spread the word about her store and direct more business in return for the free goodies. But turns out she hasn’t received one order from the star-wife’s fancy, rich friends in all the months that she’s been piling up the free desserts. Which is making the entrepreneur mad.

As it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. The star-wife’s mother, herself a film industry missus, had quite the reputation back in the late 70s and early 80s for walking into stores and picking up merchandise without paying. The owner of a prominent foreign-goods store at Marine Lines says he always had to send a representative scurrying to her home with a bill so her husband could reimburse them for her ‘purchases’.

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