Rang De Basanti actor Siddharth says he is ready to play a gay role because he feels sexual orientation is a natural and personal choice.
"I have close friends who are gay, and they are as intelligent and caring, if not more, than my heterosexual friends. I think it's time we started respecting them and giving them their much-deserved freedom to just be themselves," said the actor, according to whom India is a homophobic country.
Excerpts from an interview:
What prompted you to accept Vishal Bharadwaj's Blood Brothers as your follow-up to Rang De Basanti in Hindi?
In the year following Rang De Basanti, I went back to Hyderabad and did two hugely successful Telugu films. I decided to take a break for six months and travel. That's when Vishal called. I worked on the film because of the cause it stood for and also because I was excited about working with Vishal Bharadwaj and the Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro. I am now busy with my most exciting film till date, Striker with director Chandan Arora. I choose films based on my convictions, and take my association with them very seriously.
Bharadwaj tells me that many leading actors in Mumbai are extremely wary of stepping into HIV territory. What made you so sure of this project?
I am not concerned with how other actors are functioning. I was the 15th actor considered for Rang De... As for this film, my creative processes made it impossible to refuse the kind of work it offered.
How much do you concern yourself with issues other than cinema, including AIDS?
Having done work with leading NGOs in the field I was fully aware of the topic and its gravity. Other than that, there is only so much more I can do as an actor. AIDS awareness and education are areas that concern me most.
Bharadwaj says you're a unique actor. What is your take on him as a director? Would you like to do a full feature with him?
Vishal Bharadwaj as a director is first human and emotional and only then is he a technician. This makes working with him a very warm and comfortable experience. It made me able to go that extra step for his film. As for working with him again, actors lead a passive existence and need to wait for somebody else to take the first step in order to get work. Vishal and I will work again depending on his writing and how it appeals to me at that time.
Have you seen the other three AIDS films in Mira Nair's bouquet? What do you think of them?
I loved Santosh Sivan's piece Prarambh that starred my dear friend Prabhu Deva. It was the most relevant and 'impactful' piece in the omnibus.
You play a heterosexual man who suspects he has AIDS. Would you be willing to play a gay man who's tested HIV positive?
I think we are a homophobic country and I believe the media's insensitive sensationalisation of the issue is largely responsible for this. As an actor I play roles based on reality. Sexual orientation is a natural and personal choice. I see no reason for it to affect my decision to accept a project.
I have close friends who are gay, and they are as intelligent and caring as, if not more than, my heterosexual friends. I think it's time we started respecting them and giving them their much-deserved freedom to just be themselves.