Pakistani drag artiste and Bigg Boss contestant Begum Nawazish Ali feels that her nation is crumbling but sexuality there is a non-issue

Vishwas Kulkarni (MUMBAI MIRROR; October 04, 2010)

• Will you be in women’s clothing throughout the show?

It will have to be a 50-50. I’ve made it clear that we’re unique individuals. There are two atmaans in me: one male and one female. But playing a woman 24/7 is physically impossible. At the same time, playing the male full-time is not feasible, because the man in me can be boring. I know it’s going to be a tight ropewalk for me. It’s a balancing act.

• Will you flirt with the men on screen?

Main chote-mote baccho ke saath flirt kya karoongi?  There is only one person jo mere standards ko match kar sakta hai and that is the Bigg Boss himself!

• The show must also be an escape from the horrific realities of Pakistan.

In the last few months, I’ve been extremely depressed about Pakistan. Hundreds of people dying, from floods, from fundamentalist violence, and that’s all you hear about in the news. I have to confess that I have been selfish in accepting this opportunity.

Being locked up for those many weeks might allow for some introspection in terms of how I can give something back to Pakistan, how I can play a slightly more proactive role in repairing it. But yes, I am escaping the bitter, unpleasant realities of a troubled nation.

It’s important for my own sanity.

• Can Pakistani citizens themselves be absolved from the mess they’re in? You guys have let the army run amuck, to say nothing of bedding Islamist terrorists via the ISI? Hasn’t elitism destroyed your nation?

I don’t see the army as an enemy. The army has actually been quite active in restoring the nation after the devastating floods we’ve faced. But there are elements in the army, there are elements in the political elite, there are elements in the judiciary.

You can’t blame an entire institution. As regards the ISI and its alleged complicity in stoking fundamentalist violence, you have to understand that the game in Pakistan is a little more complicated. There are a lot of international agencies that are very active.

There are the Americans with their own agenda, there is China, there is India, both of which have their own agendas as well, and then there is Iran, which is another ballgame altogether. Pakistan is caught in a web of many intrigues, and its citizens are helpless. With these many sinister mobs playing under the table games, people are more bothered about their rozi roti than khatra.

This is a trial by fire that Pakistan will have to go through, lekin Pakistaniyo ko jaagna padega. They will have to wake up and sacrifice land, property, money.

• How easy is it being gay in a theological democracy and increasing fundamentalism?

Sexuality is not on the list of priorities for the players in the scramble for Pakistan. As far as sexuality is concerned, it is a very personal business in Pakistan; everybody is free to be whatever they want to be. I’ve never heard of any discrimination based on sexuality, as far as men are concerned. Men, whether gay or straight, have their way in this male-dominated society.