LGBTQIA+ Activist Monisha Ajgaonkar Weighs In On Acceptance, Love And More
“I was fortunate to have found my passion at an early age and go after it.”
From a career spanning eight years of capturing stunning imagery to diving into a much more specific realm, LGBTQIA+ activist Monisha Ajgaonkar didn’t have it easy. With her short film, I will also get married, leaving a mark internationally, Monisha recounts her journey. She talks to ELLE about living with the pain of having a parent who refuses to accept her sexuality, to being a part of a project so close to her heart, and having the world acknowledge it.
ELLE: What does love personally mean to you? What are your thoughts on the institution of marriage?
MA: Love, to me implies compassion, comfort and finding someone who is appreciative of who I am. I have grown up hearing that marriage is the ultimate objective of life. But through my experiences, I have learned that the existence of love is the most significant; all the other things are secondary.
ELLE: If you could abolish one stigma prevalent in Indian society towards the queer community, what would it be and why?
MA: Being a part of the queer community is not something we chose. This is who we are, this is what defines us, and the world needs to understand this. We fight two battles against society and the other with ourselves. I hope someday the society can accept us and not treat us like a taboo.
ELLE: Your short film ‘I will also get married’ has met with a lot of positivity, both in India and internationally. How was the experience of being in front of the lens like?
MA: It wasn’t easy to revisit old memories and reopen unhealed wounds. Till date, a tear runs down my eye each time I hear my dad say, “giving birth to you was my biggest mistake”. Even though I was mentally prepared and knew what I was getting myself into, it hurt more than I anticipated.
I needed this short film to touch lives, be effective, have strength, courage and love instead of sadness, sympathy and heartbreak. My courage and undying strive to achieve success and attain love outweighs all the struggles life has thrown at me. I want to continue inspiring others not to shy away from theirs.
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ELLE: Over the years, you’ve grown in your career, came out as a queer Indian girl, shot for multiple projects, and more recently, released your movie. What was the highlight of your journey so far?
MA: With every incident and project in my life, I have grown as an individual. This journey has taught me patience, and to trust the process and believe in who I am. Over the years, I have seen myself mature, which has helped me thoroughly in my professional and personal life.
ELLE: If you could go back and give one advice to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
MA: I would tell myself to take it easy, to love myself, to eat and be whoever I wanted to be irrespective of what the world says. I would ask her to live in the present and love my flaws and imperfections. I’d tell her to take each day as it goes and just breathe and laugh it off.
ELLE: Tell us about a moment in your life when you were at your lowest and how you overcame that phase.
MA: The darkest moment was coming out to my family and accepting the fact that they would never be open. I was mentally prepared, but the idea of not having my family’s support broke me. Even while filming the documentary, the hardest moment was making a phone call and talking to my father.
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ELLE: Name your three favourite queer artists on Instagram. What do you like about them the most?
MA: Sushant Divgikr, because I love his quirky personality. Ellen DeGeneres because her journey is empowering and inspiring. Girl in Red, because her songs resonate with me.
ELLE: If you could describe your life with the name of a song, what would it be?
MA: It would be Heroes by David Bowie.
“I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen.
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day.
We can be heroes, just for one day.”
Photographs: Courtesy of Monisha Ajgaonkar