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A collection of oral histories
of LGBT persons

About BOLO


India : Queer Ink
International : Amazon

In India, homosexuality is still considered taboo by the
civil society and the verdict decriminalizing homosexuality
is still being contested in the higher court. Though news
stories related to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender
topics have made front page news and headlines, there
has not been enough understanding of the LGBT men
and women or their lives. While there has been a certain
openness of late in the metros, the LGBT population has
still been largely invisible, not only due to marginalization
by a dominant patriarchal society, but also because of
fear of ridicule and stigma.

The society at large has always overlooked the existence
of LGBT community. They usually do not know enough
about real life LGBT persons - their lives and work - apart
from the stereotypical portrayals they have seen in movies
or television. The LGBT community themselves feel that
they lack positive role models, making it difficult for LGBT
persons - men and women - to 'come out' and demand
their rights for legal and social equality.

PROJECT BOLO, meaning 'Speak Up', is an attempt to
overcome this lacuna, by offering real life positive real-life
role models by documenting LGBT persons - their lives,
career, love and struggles. It is hoped that this will turn
into a movement to empower LGBT persons across India.

'Project Bolo' records and documents individual profiles
of LGBT persons who have, in their own way, stood up
for what they believed in and challenged norms and
stereotypes loaded on them by the society. They are
also persons who have made a significant mark in their
own professional areas of work, be it literature,
filmmaking, law, activism, healthcare, journalism,
IT, media, etc.

Through these recorded interviews, 'Project Bolo' hopes
to serve as an inspiration to the LGBT community and
offer real-life role models. This multi-generational
oral history project, 'Project Bolo', hopes to serve as an
inspiration to the LGBT community and reconstruct the
unique history and progress of the Indian LGBT
movement from the early 40s to the present day.

Project Bolo in its first phase Vol 1, carried out during
2010-2011, recorded and documented oral histories of
20 LGBT persons in four cities - Mumbai, Pune,
New Delhi and Lucknow :
Aditya Bandopadhyay,
Ashok Row Kavi, Betu Singh, Bindumadhav Khire,
Dalip Daswani, Gauri Sawant, Geeta Khumana, Giti
Thadani, Hoshang Merchant, Jehangir Jani, Lachi,
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Manvendra Singh Gohil, Nisha,
Parmesh Shahani, R Raj Rao, Ruth Vanita, Saleem
Kidwai, Shivananda Khan, Sunil Gupta.

Project Bolo is produced by The Humsafar Trust in
association with Solaris Pictures and supported by
UNDP (India).

Project Bolo interviews can be viewed online as
streaming video on this website. They are also available
on DVDs. Excerpts of transcripts can be read online and
the entrire transcripts will soon be published as a book.

Vivek Anand

Concept, Interviews & Direction:
Sridhar Rangayan
Director's Statement
India has an estimated population of 1.21 billion.
According to studies in the modern West, 2 - 13%
of the population is homosexual. However, a 2006
study in India suggested that 20% of the population
anonymously reported some homosexual feelings.
So that leads to a staggering figure that is even
beyond the bounds of imagination. Is it true, can it
be? I would leave this question open ended...

I remember, in 1990, when we started publication of
Bombay Dost, the general perception was that there
are no homosexuals in India and it was a Western
concept. In fact, it was even alleged that gay men
existed only in the head of one 'out' gay man -
Ashok Row Kavi!! When we went asking for facilities,
services and rights for LGBT persons, the constant
question was - where are they, we don't see them.
The LGBT community themselves were still fraught
with doubt and anxiety, 'what happens if I come out?'
So, a majority of LGBT persons have largely
remained in the closet and, till recently, people
who were out could be counted on one's fingertips.

Through in-depth interviews with 20 wonderful LGBT
persons across four cities in India, I have tried to
bring to light their growing-up years, family, coming
to terms with their sexuality, meeting people with
similar preferences or identities, how did they fall in
love, how did they negotiate their sexuality in their
workplace, did they come out in the media and to
their families, what have been the repercussions,
what have been the personal victories, failures,
regrets and moment of happiness. These interviews
further our understanding of what it means to be a
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or a hijra in India?

These interviews also flagpost the important
milestones of the Indian LGBT movement from the
early 60s to today - where did people meet, cruising
places, the early efforts at forming groups in Mumbai
and New Delhi, the first gay newsletter, the first
lesbian book, uncovering historical evidence of
same-sex literature and iconography, the formation
of LGBT organizations and various advocacy efforts
leading to the historic Delhi High Court verdict on
July 2nd 2009 decriminalizing homosexuality.

Each of them bring a different slice of life experience,
a different piece of history, a different tile of India…
to form a rich mosaic, a rich tapestry of Indian LGBT
life, history and movement that is 'Project Bolo'.

~ Sridhar Rangayan

2nd July, 2011 | Mumbai

project BOLO - vol1

Supported by
UNDP India
Produced by
The Humsafar Trust

Solaris Pictures

Buy Bolo DVDs  



Project BOLO Team

Concept, Interviews & Direction : Sridhar Rangayan

Producer for The Humsafar Trust : Vivek Anand

Executive Producer for Solaris Pictures: Sridhar Rangayan

Director Of Photography & Sound Recordist : Subhransu Das

Editors : Biren Jyoti Mohanty & Girija Sankar Tudu

Title Music: Suresh Iyer

Chief Assistant Director : Sonal Giani

Photographs: Subhransu Das

Transcripts : Kissmago Professional Services, Dicky Baruah, Anup Tripathi, Anubha Singh, Paras Sharma

Transcripts edited by: Sridhar Rangayan

Website Design: Sridhar Rangayan


Producer's Statement

BOLO goes beyond the scope of a defined project.
BOLO is a new addition in the LGBT movement and
its struggle to find social and legal acceptance in our
country. In the beginning we have 20 LGBT individual
who have come forward and spoken about their lives,
their struggles, their moments of despair, agony and
their moments of happiness. I am sure that soon
many more would join the BOLO movement and
come forward and share their stories through the
BOLO platform. Finally one would hope that through
BOLO and similar oral history documents the LGBT
community will globally find its legitimate space.

~ Vivek Anand

7th October, 2011 | Mumbai


Adita BandopadhyayAshok Row KaviBetu SinghBindumadhav KhireDalip DaswaniGauri SawantGeeta KumanaGiti ThadaniHoshang MerchantJehangir Jani
LachiLaxmi Narayan TripathiManvendra Singh GohilNishaParmesh ShahaniR.Raj RaoRuth VanitaSaleem KidwaiShivananda KhanSunil Gupta


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