In the early years, India saw no celebration of queer lives. People saw no amendments to the Indian Constitution that may have made them feel accepted. The LGBTQ+ community had experiences that were vastly different as compared to today.
Well to challenge these norms, here comes Secrets of Seenagers, a documentary that commemorates the life of senior gay men in India.
Seenagers GupShup group
Ashok Row Kavi founded a support group for gay, bisexuals and asexual men in their 50’s. The group is called Seenagers GupShup Group (SGG). The group had a member count of 50 and has been fast-growing since he last formed it in July.
In the hopes of finding some volunteers to lend them a small hall, Ashok asks, “More men from Indore and Jaipur have ‘threatened’ to attend the meets, but where’s space?” The group initially started in the garage and terrace spaces. But with growing members, they needed a bigger hall.
After staying afloat for 18 months, the group has found a spot.
Ashok Row Kavi
Ashok Kavi is an LGBTQ+ activist and the founder of the group. The group is India’s first queer support group. It is one of a kind that ensures gay men pull up their socks and get rid of the attitude towards saving. “Nearly all gay men are like adolescents, who want to party 24/7, and don’t save up,” grumbles Kavi.
In an effort to make a difference, Kavi invites financial experts to help out senior gay members at Seenagers. The group holds sessions talking about all matters. These sessions are also uploaded online. The group preps its members for retirement and apart from this, they hold sessions on combating depression and loneliness.
Under society’s pressure, there are several members that have married women and called it quits after 4-5 years.
“Now, at the zenith of their careers, after their wives have moved on and parents are no more, these men find themselves alone.”
Kavi began Seenagers by picking a leaf out of his own experiences. He talks about how anxiety creeps in when there is no one to talk to.
Hence, he devised a solution to help other men tide over loneliness. He created a system that enlists young gay counters to help out in buying utilities and groceries.
Secrets of Seenagers
Secrets of Seenegers is a 44-min long documentary that commemorates the lives of gay, bisexual and asexual men. Abhigyan Mukherjee directed the film and it was showcased on the occasion of Republic Day.
The documentary asks questions to members of the group. The questions ranged from having fun to dating in the 70s and other teenager related topics. Prasad stresses the motive of the film by saying, “The current lot of older gay men are almost invisible. Nobody wants to talk about them. We want to bring them into the limelight.”
The youngest volunteer in the group is Kuldeep Das who is 37 years old. He is also the curator of the film and says he had to run away from his own wedding. He says, “11.12.13. The date is imprinted in my mind. Everyone was so caught up on having a grand affair that they weren’t listening to me and I had no other choice.” He also says that he has his own fear of growing old as a gay man, but now has overcome them.
“Younger people today fear growing old. People in their 20s talk about dying in their 40s. But aging is wonderful,” Prasad adds.
Age is just a number
The film showed seenagers talking about what it was like to find a partner in the 90s. And for most, walking the streets of Mumbai and looking for love was the only option.
Anand Vasudevan was part of Seenagers group for two years. He is 54 years of age and recalls the most memorable party in the early 90s. He explains, “It was a party for gay people on New Year’s eve in a Mumbai college, and it was fascinating to see so many men present.” However, he also adds that he has no preference between online dating and meeting people organically.
Saleem Kidwait wrote a book called Same-Sex Love in India. The book has been in print for over 20 years now and it is documented proof of LGBTQ+ relations from over 2,000 years of Indian literature. He believes when it comes to online dating, gay rights activists face homophobia that he has never seen before.
This all boy’s club had some interesting experiences to share in the documentary. they are looking to make more such films to share on-screen. Prasad says that they are starting to understand older women as opposed to only older men.
Abhigyan adds, “We could’ve gauged the questions to ask gay men but the questions would’ve been different when it comes to women.”