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Dearest Saira, nothing but kisses, hugs, and huge blessings from all of us to you on your 8th birthday and for the coming years. Happy birthday to you darling.! @LaraDutta @Maheshbhupathi @winstonjhaag viraajjhaag……

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I feel every voice deserves a platform, provided the voice is genuine: Celina

I feel every voice deserves a platform, provided the voice is genuine: Celina

After a gap of seven years, former Miss India and Bollywood actress Celina Jaitly Haag will be staging a comeback. She will be replacing Paoli in Ram Kamal Mukherjee’s Hindi film titled Season’s Greetings, which is a tribute to Rituparno Ghosh. Perhaps this is the country’s first film that touches upon the #MeToo movement. It sends out a message of ‘I am who I am’. The film will be shot in Kolkata from November-end. The actress opens up to CT on the ongoing movement, her fight for the cause of the LGBTQIA community, her family and a lot more. Excerpts from the interview:

You were last seen in Anees Bazmee’s Thank You in 2011. What prompted you to take up Season’s Greetings as your comeback vehicle?

I met director Ram Kamal Mukherjee in Dubai, when he was there for his film, Cakewalk. That’s when he narrated a couple of story ideas to me. He was planning to make a film on one and Season’s Greetings was one of them. I strongly connected with the story. After all, it’s a tribute to the late Rituparno Ghosh. I’ve known Ram Kamal as an author and journalist for many years and I knew that someday he would make a film. So, we met, had salad and soup, and bid adieu. We didn’t discuss anything about the film. Much later, he called me and said he would like to consider me for the role of the female lead in the film. Without giving away the plot, I’d say that it’s a unique attempt.

Did you interact with Rituparno Ghosh in the past?

Yes. In fact he wanted to cast me in a film, in which he was acting as a transgender.

I was six months pregnant with Winston and Viraaj. That’s why I had to let it go. But we’d often chat about various things, including Section 377, and his feelings after his father’s demise. He was a bundle of talent, gone too soon. I guess, I was destined to make a comeback in a film associated with Rituparno Ghosh.

Considering that you are half-Bengali, it took you almost three decades to do your first film set in Kolkata. Why so?

That’s precisely the reason why I want to do this film. Kolkata remains one of the most important part of my life and career. I started my journey as a model from this city, and eventually ended up being Miss India in 2001 and fourth runners-up at the Miss Universe contest.

You’ve been closely working on LGBTQIA movement for almost two decades now. Did the story of the film appeal to you because of the subject?

I was initially not a part of this film. Paoli was. It’s destiny. Ram Kamal and I were discussing something else, when he suddenly asked me to take a look at the script. After reading it, I realised that it’s god’s own way of telling me that I need to take this movement forward. Abolishment of section 377 is a historical decision and the film deals with every aspect of LGTBQIA. I still remember how a celebrated Kolkata-based makeup artist was like a mother figure to me, when I was still a struggling model in Kolkata. I had seen his trials and tribulations as a gay middle-aged man. Around the same time, I too was in a traumatic relationship with a closeted gay man. I was only 16 and I thought prayers could fix this. But a few years later, these two men’s untimely death hit me hard and forced me to take up the cause. I have spent 12 years as an activist and now, United Nations has appointed me as a goodwill ambassador for the same cause.

As a person who has always dared to speak her mind, what is your take on the #MeToo movement that has taken a major toll on entertainment industry?

I feel every voice deserves a platform, provided the voice is genuine. I don’t believe in media trial, as there has to be a law that defines certain rules and regulations that would protect both men, women and LDBTQIA from sexual and mental harassment at work place. Professional rivalry, politics and gender bias is nothing new, but it’s good that people are talking about it now. But what will be the end result? Let’s have a concrete vision. Let’s ask our political leaders to talk about it in the parliament. Let’s pass a law against oppression and sexual discrimination at workplace. Only then can we call this a movement!

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