Fame brings with it a greed to make more money – by hook or by crook. After reading several reports about first ever transgender school Principal in India Manabi Bandopadhyay, we too decided to interview her.
I called her up many times on her mobile phone, and each time the call was received by her so-called adopted son-cum-secretary Debashish. In Hindi loaded with heavy Bangla accent, he asked me zillion questions about how we wanted to do the interview, the shoot requirements, shoot angles, the questions etc. Finally, he asked me to mail a formal request for the interview along with the list of questions. I complied.
The next day when I called Manabi again to enquire about the possible shoot date, she handed over the phone to Debashish who asked for a facilitation fee. Assuming it to be some kind of donation for the welfare of the transgender community, I agreed and told him it should not be a problem. However, when I asked the amount of money he was expecting, I could not believe my what I heard. He said, "Rs 50 lacs (INR 5 million)."
“Nobody cared for Manabi when she was struggling. Today, when she has established her career, everybody is after her for interviews. She has given many interviews to print media in past. If you want to interview her, you have to shell out Rs 50 lacs, or else move on,” said Debashish over the phone.
"I have been approached by BBC, CNN and many other foreign channels. Manabi will give interview to the one that offers the highest amount,” he added.
Not believing what I heard, I asked him to let me speak to Manabi once. And lo and behold, came the same response from her too. Too shocking to believe.
Later I learnt from other international media that Manabi and Debashish indeed ask for the same amount from every such news group desirous of interviewing her.
Without many options, we dropped the story idea and "moved on." Disgusting to the core.