This autumn, Amar Rajvani and Seth Truman become the first characters in a South Asian-led production to be united in a same-sex wedding on a British stage.

Making its world premiere in at the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Stardust is an original musical, drawing inspiration from the popular reincarnation thrillers of Bollywood cinema to explore the idea of love between two souls, freed from the constraints of gender. Created by Shahid Iqbal Khan and Sâmir Bhamra, this vibrant production sets pulsating dance numbers to original songs by Robby Khela who stars as Amar. Here he talks about being in Erik Ransom’s Grindr: The Opera, racism in the queer community, and Stardust’s same-sex wedding.

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Grindr: The Opera and racism in the queer community.

You have to take it with a pinch of salt. Even though the show was very humorous – there was a lot of comedy involved – it did touch upon some rather deep-rooted issues within the queer community. Being the only person of colour in the show, when the show spoke a little bit about racism, that kind of hit home. Even though we’re supposed to be an inclusive community, I often get racist messages on Grindr. If I was to message someone, they would say ‘sorry not into –’ and then they would use the p-word, even though I’m not from Pakistan. Ignorance and racism. Some of my black friends have it even worse. ‘No blacks’ is plastered all over profiles, people disguise it as a sexual preference but when you’re advertising like that it does become racism, clearly. If someone does message you and they’re not your type, you can just politely decline – you don’t need to say ‘not into blacks’ or ‘not into Asians’ or ‘only into white people’. That’s when it becomes racism for me. Grindr has cut down the abuse that does happen, they do really investigate such comments, but the show highlighted a very serious point through comedy which is why I think it was so successful and why ultimately we had to extend it.

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Attacks on queer Asian people.

 We don’t get to hear about them because they don’t get reported. That’s the sad reality. Honour killings within the Asian community are happening as well. I went on a course, when I was working for Slough Borough Council as a volunteer, about honour killings, and that ties in with the LGBT suicides that are happening. They’re not getting reported so we never have a clear indication of how many people are affected. There are loads of charities now – I know the NAZ Project is there to really support people if they are going through issues where they’re being forced into marriage. I’ve got male friends who happen to be gay, but their parents are putting so much pressure on them to get married to a girl and have a ‘normal life’, and they’ve got no one to talk to. Charities are helping, but obviously more needs to be done. If we have more visible role models within the community, perhaps it would encourage people to come forward and talk a lot more, which is why shows like Stardust are so important.

Phizzical Productions and Above the Stag.

 I started working with Phizzical in 2007. I had no formal drama training, I had an English and drama degree but I couldn’t afford drama school. I saw this casting call that Phizzical had put out, went and auditioned and they invited me back for a show called What You Fancy, a modern retelling of Twelfth Night. I landed the part of Sebastian and since then I’ve just been acting full-time. Phizzical and Above The Stag are two companies that really do create a family atmosphere. They don’t treat you like you’re just an actor, they welcome you in, make you part of the family and really look after you. When they do that you always want to give 110 percent. That atmosphere makes you want to keep working with them.

Shahid Iqbal Khan.

Shahid is an inspiration. He’s a deaf writer and he’s also a part of the British Asian LGBT community. He’s brought his own struggles into the script, in terms of navigating Grindr and the dating world. He’s brought a unique perspective and been part of the community he’s writing about, which is why he was the perfect choice as the writer for Stardust.

Stardust’s same-sex wedding milestone.

I think it’s very important. Now that Section 377 in India has been abolished, we are definitely taking steps forward. When I tried to launch a music career ten years ago, I was told that no-one’s going to buy a gay Asian boy’s records so just give up the dream. From that point to now, where I’m in the position to create my own musical, write my own songs and tell this story – we’ve definitely taken steps forward. There is a lot more work to do, especially within the Asian community where the concept of being gay is still very taboo, which is why you haven’t seen two Asian guys getting married onstage. People don’t want to see it but they have to now because times have changed.

Stardust makes its world premiere at the Belgrade Theatre 14-21 September.

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