Friday, May 18, 2012

I feel like a star already! (unedited version)

I feel like a star already!

Says Harish Iyer, post Sunday’s episode of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate, as he opens up in a quick fun-filled chat, some adorable masala thrown in along the way…

L Romal M Singh

Harish Iyer is a name that India now knows, and this is a fact! This is a fact especially after the weekend’s broadcast of Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate, with an episode that brought the issue of Child Sexual Abuse into every TV viewing household across the country.

Harish has always however been an inspiration, a guide, a listening ear, a friend and a lover to many people in and associated with India’s LGBTI community. But now he’s a household name, all set to contribute even more to his cause. An avid blogger and a self-confessed and irrefutable Twitterati — Harish is as adorable in person as his dimples make you believe him to be.

“I am just amazed. It’s beyond words… and I mean it… the whole experience was electrifying to say the least,” begins Harish as we chat on a particularly humid Bangalorean night.

Harish continues to be the simple human being, this journalist met three years ago on a bright-lit night in Mumbai and the simplicity in his words and sheer incapability to hide true excitement still brings a smile to lives all around him. 

“The show was really something I had never expected it to be. I’ve been on TV shows before… and I’ve spoken about these things before too… but the warmth, the involvement and the sheer emotionality of this show overwhelmed me. I am quite surprised I wasn’t a puddle of tears all through,” continues Harish as he describes the show.

“It helped me get comfortable and I was fully aware of how this would be the perfect medium to get my message out. Aamir’s warmth and genuine concern also helped me open up about several things even my amma hadn’t heard from me before — secrets I could never muster enough courage to share. Friends had heard about these memories and confidantes had been trusted with them… but I felt India needed to hear them too and only a show like Satyamev Jayate could have got me speaking so easily and so frankly about them,” Harish tells us.

Afraid that we’ll remind Harish of memories we’d rather not, we quickly change the topic to the Sridevi surprise and Harish indulges us, with a new zing in his endearing voice. “When I was being readied for the show, I noticed this gorgeous sari being wheeled around and actually asked a volunteer who the sari was for. I was only met with a disapproving mumble about someone random. There was a reference to this unheard of name being made several times all throughout the set and much later I realised that this was a code name for Sridevi. I still smile when I think of all the efforts the team went through to keep the surprise genuine for me. I am really thankful to them,” says Harish.

We prod further…Sridevi and surprised, yes, but aren’t the both of you Tamil? “Yes!” pat comes the reply as Harish adds, “we actually spoke to each other in Tamil, bits that sadly didn’t make it to the final edit of the show. When I saw her, the only words that slipped off my tongue were ‘enakku vishvaasamillai, neenguh nijamaavuh theriyilai’ (I can’t believe this, you don’t seem to be real) and she replied, ‘aamaam, nijam thaan…’ (Yes, yes, this is real)…”

Meeting the women of your dreams — the root behind your strength and telling the whole country your tale, egged on on by none other than Aamir Khan himself, we’re still left wondering what element of the show caught your attention the most? “I think what Dr. Rajat said seemed to make most sense to me. Respect your elders for their attitude, not for their age. I think a pervert should be called a pervert, irrespective of his age or gender or sexuality,” answers Harish.

And what about the audience? “The audience was amazing. We actually shot this one episode over almost a whole day and the intensity that you saw on screen was only one tenth of what actually transpired on those sets. Aamir Khan was in tears on many occasions and we had to stop for little breaks to just allow the sniffles in the audience to clear up,” Harish shares. 

Shooting done and weeks later, the show finally airs. So what does Harish decide to do on the D-day? “I watched the episode with a few of my gay friends and then spent most of the day with a friend, Deborah, at a mall in Thane. What really surprised me was people approaching me a few hours after the airing… asking me if I could pose with them. I feel like a star already! Like that’s not enough… Aamir Khan actually called to check on all of us. Every single one of us who participated in that show! He even asked us if we thought the editing was done well and the likes. He’s just far too amazing!,” Harish tells us.

But is that all, we enquire? “No! Soon enough emails started flooding my inbox and messages began delivering like crazy. That’s when I realised I needed to ensure that it didn’t all end with this. I wanted to continue the buzz and keep the excitement going. Which is why I’ve announced and invited entries for a repository of materials on Sexual Abuse Awareness — I want this to go on and Satyamev Jayate has come forward to help me there too! They’re just amazing people, doing amazing work,” Harish explains.

With hardly any time left to spare, we conclude by asking Harish why he chose to do what he did and he quite brilliantly answers. “We all have ways to deal with these grave wounds. Wounds that will never really fully heal. Cinderella has her music and her belief system, Ganesh had forgiveness and his passion for work. I have the need to spread awareness and will do everything and anything within my capabilities to ensure that the word gets around. No child should ever be forced to stay quiet about sexual abuse, ever again,” Harish concludes.

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