The play, Begum Sahiba, had a quiet premiere this Saturday at Bandra’s Rangsharda auditorium, but by Monday it had gay rights activists screaming hoarse.
Alleging “demeaning and inaccurate” representation of gays in the play, written by Poonam Dasgupta, the National Forum for Gay Rights demanded alterations to the script and a disclaimer that the characters portrayed in the play are fictitious.
The play directed by Kiran Avidokolanu has actor Rahul Roy playing a double role. The five gay characters in the play, depicted as pimps, gigolos and criminals, are made to appear representative of the entire gay community, said Bosky Sheth, NFGR’s spokesperson. “By equating occupation and orientation all gays are shown as immoral and promiscuous. Though this is fiction, people wrongly believe these stereotypes,” said Sheth.
NFGR has written to the play’s producers demanding a disclaimer and the deletion of certain “offensive” lines. “Gay people in the audience were deeply offended by some of the dialogues and gestures,” said Sheth, who has not yet seen the play but will attend a performance scheduled this weekend. “We will stage a protest if our requests are not met,” she added. The group has also sent an appeal to the Censor Board.
The play is about an actress, affectionately called Begum Sahiba, who goes into severe depression after her husband’s death. To help her overcome this her gay make-up artist encourages her to seek the company of gigolos. The play features Rahul Roy and Poonam Dasgupta as the leads.