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South Asian Pride

Jun/03/2023 / by Team Seema
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Image credits: GettyImages

June is widely recognized as Pride month, kicking off parades and celebrations for the LGBTQ+ community and inspiring people around the world to embrace their authenticity. For the South Asian community, the past five years have been instrumental in providing opportunities and showcasing representation. In 2018, when Section 377 was repealed in India, ending the law that criminalized any sexual acts that “go against the order of nature,” it carried huge significance for not only LGBTQ+ people in India but for South Asians across the world. Not only did that change begin changing hearts and minds, but it gave rise to LGBTQ+ icons and celebrities. In recognition of Pride month, learn about four celebrated changemakers and how they are bringing about positive transformation.

1. Tan France

Born Tanvir Wasim Safdar in South Yorkshire England to Pakistani parents) Tan France is an author, fashion designer, stylist, reality star, and LGBTQ+ activist and newly minted American citizen. France is the fashion star among Queer Eye’s Fab Five, which just aired its seventh season on Netflix. In addition to Queer Eye, he hosts Netflix’s Next in Fashion and the web series “Dressing Funny,” and uses his Instagram account called “Shaded” to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and self-love. 

Words of wisdom: “There’s no right or wrong way to be gay. No right or wrong way to come out. It’s your journey, do it the way you want to do it.”

2. Lilly Singh 

Canadian-American actress, comedian, talk show host, and Internet personality Lilly Singh is the only LGBTQ+ woman of color on late night (A Little Late with Lilly), using her humor, positivity, and outspoken nature to inspire others to embrace their authentic selves. She first opened up about her sexual orientation in 2019 on Twitter, checking boxes as a bisexual woman of color. 

Words of wisdom: “Throughout my life these have proven to be obstacles from time to time. But now I’m fully embracing them as my superpowers. No matter how many ‘boxes’ you check, I encourage you to do the same.”

3. Manvendra Singh Gohil

Born in 1965 as the likely heir of Maharaja of Rajpipla, Manvendra Singh Gohil is thought to be the first openly gay prince in the world and one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ Indian activists. He appeared on “Oprah” numerous times to promote his advocacy work and has also spread awareness on Keeping up with the Kardashians after he and Kendall Jenner became friends when she shot for Vogue India. 

Words of wisdom: “LGBT or otherwise, love is love.”

4. Kal Penn

Kal Penn was already of the most multidimensional South Asian influencers—the actor who once starred in the goofball comedy Harold and Kumar and later the drama House became an adviser to President Barak Obama in 2009. But then in 2021, he shared in his memoir, You Can’t Be Serious, that he was gay and engaged to his partner, Josh, which shone a light on the lack of LGBTQ representation among the South Asian community.

Words of wisdom: “There’s no timeline on this stuff. People figure their s— out at different times in their lives, so I’m glad I did when I did.”

All Original

Filmmaker Nida Manzoor shows moviegoers something they’ve never seen in Polite Society

British Pakistani filmmaker Nida Manzoor kicked in the teeth of Hollywood expectations with her genre-bending debut film, Polite Society, which is in theaters now. Manzoor, who wrote and directed the action film, which tells the story of aspiring stunt performer Ria (Priya Kansara) as she tries to stop her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from letting go of her dream of being an artist in lieu of married life. 

In what reviewers are calling a genre mashup that touches Bollywood, Hollywood westerns, musicals, heist capers, horror, with a dash of Kill Bill, Manzoor is being lauded for created something truly original. In Polite Society, Manzoor endeavored to use the typically male-dominated action world to explore teenage angst and the messy march toward womanhood. While Manzoor lauds influences like Jackie Chan and Kill Bill, she also looked to her Bollywood roots in the creation of this film. She told Entertainment Weekly: “I grew up on a very heavy diet of Bollywood movies. I feel like we sometimes look down on Bollywood cinema in the West and I remember being so moved by the craft of that film.”

Taste of Indian Theater

Mughal-e-Azam kicks of 13-city North American tour

Mughal-e-Azam, one of India’s first Broadway-style musical, is premiering in the U.S. and Canada. Produced by Shapoorji Pallonji Group and directed by Feroz Abbas Khan, Mughal-e-Azam will be presented this summer to audiences in 13 cities. Based on K Asif’s 1960 classic film of the same name, the show intertwines a legendary love story and highlights India’s culture of Kathak dances and classical music. The 13-city tour kicked off in Atlanta last month with stops set for New York, Chicago, Toronto, and more. To date, it has performed in Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Muscat, and Doha.

Mughal-e-Azam, which features cast and crew of more than 150 people, has received a wide range of accolades since its 2016 premiere in Mumbai. In 2017, it won seven out of the 14 BroadwayWorld India Awards, including Best Play, Best Director, Best Costume Design, Best Choreography, Best Original Set Design, Best Original Lighting Design and Best Ensemble Cast.

“This production is a tribute to K Asif’s masterpiece, which has enthralled the audiences for over six decades,” says Director Feroz Abbas Khan. “A love story that threatened an empire and the sheer audacity of a courtesan to challenge an emperor by declaring ‘Pyaar kiya toh darna kya’ is simply breathtaking. A musical of unprecedented scale, intensity, and grace, this is perhaps the finest moment in Indian theater.”

MUGHAL-E-AZAM NORTH AMERICAN TOUR SCHEDULE 2023

  • June 2 – 4 / New York (David H. Koch Theatre )
  • June 9 – 11 / Baltimore (The Lyric Baltimore)
  • June 16 – 18 / Lakeland, Fla. (RP Funding Center)
  • June 23 – 24 / Chicago (Auditorium Theatre)
  • June 30 – July 1 / Newark, N.J. (New Jersey Performing Arts Center)
  • July 7 – 9 / Toronto (Meridian Hall)
  • July 14 – 16 / Houston (Brown Theatre)
  • July 21 – 23 / Dallas (Music Hall at Fair Park)
  • July 28 – 30 / Seattle (McCaw Hall)
  • Aug. 5 – 6 / Vancouver, British Columbia (Queen Elizabeth Theatre)
  • Aug. 11 – 13 / San Jose, Calif. (San Jose Center for the Performing Arts)
  • Aug. 18 – 19 / Phoenix (Symphony Hall)

A Historic Visit

On June 22, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington, DC in a trip the Biden administration said aims to “affirm the deep and close partnership” between the two countries. “The upcoming visit will affirm the deep and close partnership between the United States and India and the warm bonds of family and friendship that link Americans and Indians together,” the statement read.

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