The final round for Mr Gay World India was held in Mumbai on February 10, 2017, where 31-year-old Darshan Mandhana bagged the pageant in his third attempt. Darshan Mandhana, who is an HR professional from Mumbai, made it to the final three, along with Banglore’s Sai Ganesh Krishnamurthy and Mumbai’s Rohan Pujari. He will now represent India in the international competition, Mr Gay World 2017.

In an exclusive interview to InUth, the overjoyed trio spoke about their overall experiences at Mr Gay World India, the larger cause behind the pageant and how the support of family strengthened them to embrace their true selves.

On Mr Gay World India experiences

Rohan: I am introduced to many new skills; these two (Sai and Darshan) are experienced but for me, it is for the first time. The photo shoots and talent rounds were really alien to me. I never thought of doing something like this. It’s like finding myself and identifying who I actually am.

Darshan: It is not just a beauty pageant but it is the substance to stand for myself and my rights. I have learnt a lot and developed over time—referring to his previous two stints.

Sai: I never feel like there is a competition between us. We are friends and may the best man win and participate in the international pageant.

On LGBTQ rights, acceptance, and support

Darshan: It is more than a competition to us. More than anything, it is to bring about a change. I’m just grateful to my family who embraced my true self. Without their support, this all would mean nothing.

Sai: It is about gaining the acceptance of the community as one of them.

Rohan: If anything, it is about a sense of oneness and fraternity.

Pageant mentors Sushant Divgikar and Anvesh Sahoo were also available for a brief chat. Sushant is the National Director for Mr Gay World India and represented India at Mr Gay World 2014 and ranked among the top 10 contestants in the pageant.

“When I participated [in 2014] there was not much information about the pageant. But we have come a long way since then,” he said. “I am really glad and thankful to these boys who idolise me for doing something pioneering. I just want it to grow and I wish someone from India makes it to the top.”

Anvesh, who represented India at Mr Gay World International 2016, expressed similar sentiments. “Someone from India should win this pageant. This would bring more support and recognition (for the LGBTQ community),” he spoke. “This pageant is very important for India too as now more youngsters are coming out openly about their sexuality and their parents, too, are accepting them as who they are,” he signed off.

Story by Deven D Lad