Hyderabad: From swinging silky wigs to swirling long lashes, the drag scene finally gains weight in the city
The set-up, the makeup, the costume, the performance; drag culture has it all. However, it is beyond those wigs and long lashes. It is not only about sexuality, but also about a struggle that needs to be heard. While the country’s drag culture is not as strong as it is in the West, Hyderabad takes its first step in the hope to change the scenario.
City’s first drag show
Drag artistes danced to a cheering crowd in the city’s first such show on June 9 at Humans of Nirvana, Jubilee Hills. The event, which drew upwards of a hundred people, was conducted by Sas3’s Dancing Feet in collaboration with Mobbera Foundation, a pro-LGBTQ+ NGO.
A total of three drag queens slayed the stage with their eleganza. It began with ‘Maha Mohini D’vi’, performed by Patruni Chidananda Sastry, dressed in a blue velvet sari with pink feather boa and a loud green wig. Mohini (Patruni Sastry) danced on one of the pride anthems Born
This Way by Lady Gaga followed by a singing performance of She-wolf by Shakira and ended with a Hindi song, creating a groove within the audience.
The next performance was by Mallika-e-Raks, who brought the Begum era, making the spectators get the taste of classic movies like Umrao Jaan and Mughal-e-Azam.
The final drag performance was by Nutty Savitri, performed by Anil Kohli, who bought the core Telugu independent woman image to his act.
Talking about it, Patruni Sastry, the organiser of the event, says, “Last year, we had one show but it wasn’t an in-house performance, and the artistes were from Bengaluru. The event was organised by Mist (a Pune-based pan-India community organisation of the queer) as part of QAAF (Queer and Allies Arts Festival). But, this time, the drag queens are from the city.”
Identities and challenges
Continuing on that, the 26-year-old stresses on the difference and objective behind.
He explains, “The difference is that a trans is what you are and drag is what you do. So, a trans can also do drag, but not all drag queens or kings are trans. The society has some major misconceptions about drag shows. The idea of drag and cross-dressing are often confused with each other. So, by conducting such shows, we can strike a conversation and can break this misconception and taboo.”
Patruni Sastry, who is also the founder of Hyderabad Drag Club, a group which aims to host drag workshops, performances and many more events to bring up drag culture in Hyderabad, says, “We want to create a drag scene which can happen on a regular basis and can be an alternative for the live music or comedy nights.”
Commenting on the same, the founder of Humans of Nirvana, Bhagi Shravani, tells, “Patruni came and discussed it. And, within three days, we came up with this. Nothing was planned but how people got turned up and supported the event was amazing. This space is about providing a platform to initiatives and spread the word to bring about a change and we are glad that we are able to do our bit and break these preconceived notions.”
Drag’s humble beginnings
Drag show is an act performed by artistes, both men and women, that features performers dancing, singing or lip-syncing. But today, it is more dominated by drag queens, men who are dressed up as women and present themselves in feminine ways exaggeratedly.
Drag, as a term, was reportedly first used in 1870 with some claiming that it was an acronym of ‘Dressed Resembling A Girl’. But, this claim remains disputed. Yet, the word stuck and has now found its way into the Indian space of entertainment with an underlying message of non-conformity, trampling over the definitions of being a man, woman or the other.
Also, much of this history can be traced back to folk theatre, to what in West Bengal is known as ‘Jatra’, where men played female characters because women were barred from the stage or Bihar’s ‘Launda Naach’, where men dress up as women during festive gatherings.