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Filmmaker and partner pretended to be cousins for 13 years to rent home

Siddhant Pillai and Apurva Asrani
Siddhant Pillai and Apurva Asrani (Photo: @Apurvasrani | Twitter)

Apurva Asrani, an award-winning editor and screenwriter based in India, has shared his joy on Twitter that he and his partner have bought their first home together.

However, in the tweet, he revealed that they had pretended to be cousins for the past 13 years in order to avoid awkward questions about their living arrangements.

As an editor, Asrani, 42, has a long list of credits to his name, including the Bollywood hit Satya (1998). He also wrote human rights biopic Aligarh (2016) and directed the 2003 movie, Out of Control. He edited the 2019 Amazon Prime comedy-drama series, Made in Heaven. Besides his filmmaking, he has become a leading voice for LGBTQ rights in India.

Related: Bollywood’s first gay rom-com trumpets a new era in India

In the tweet, Asrani said, “For 13 years we pretended to be cousins so we could rent a home together. We were told ‘keep curtains drawn so neighbors don’t know ‘what’ you are’. We recently bought our own home. Now we voluntarily tell neighbors we are partners 💕. It’s time LGBTQ families are normalized too.”

The tweet included a photo of Asrani and partner, Siddhant Pillai, and one of the front door nameplate of their new home in Goa, which features both their names.

In a later tweet, he demonstrated they no longer kept their living room curtains drawn because they chose to not have curtains.

Anti-gay attitudes persist amongst much of Indian society. The country ruled that legislation banning gay sex was illegal in 2009, but this was overturned in 2013 and gay sex was once again prohibitied. It was only in 2018 that India’s Supreme Court struck down Section 377, the colonial-era law banning same-sex sexual activity. Same-sex marriage remains outlawed.

Related: India’s Supreme Court overturns sodomy ban in a landmark ruling

After the tweet went viral, Asrani explained further on why he’d posted it.

“I have always tried to bring attention to the LGBTQIA+ community,” he said, reports Times of India.

“It has almost been 20 years since I edited Satya. In these years, I have realized that people are quick to slot you, no matter what work you do. They go by your personal choices. After writing Aligarh (2015), I decided to openly talk about the community, their issues, fears and the lack of empathy for them.

“Since then, I’ve made constant efforts to normalize things for couples or individuals like Sid and me because we still lack the right environment.

“We have the blessings of our families today,” he said. “We wanted to share our joy of having a place of our own. We bought the house before the lockdown and we thought that it might inspire more people to accept, acknowledge and embrace things without judgment.”

Asrani’s tweet prompted plenty of messages of support, including some from colleagues in the Indian film industry. However, it also prompted lots of homophobic tweets, demonstrating that sexuality remains a contentious issue for many in the country.

Partner Siddhant Pillai also tweeted, saying he was “overwhelmed” by the supportive messages he and Asrani had received following Asrani’s tweet.