For the very first time in India, three diverse drag queens came together to create a virtual studio for drag under the roof of Royal Campus 1927. This space would host a biweekly online drag event where diverse drag performers across all over India would come to bring their best of art. An idea curated by Adam Pasha, the former Big Boss Kannada contestant, and an eminent drag performer and supported by the Lakshya Trust founded by His Highness Prince of Rajpipla, Sri Manvendra Singh Gohil.
The virtual Platform “Studio 69” is an umbrella that would host both national and an international queen. Other members on board who are curating are Abhishek Singhania aka Jiya Labejia, from the Haus of Labejia and Suffocated Art Specimen (SAS), founder of Dragvanti, an online platform for Drag queens in India. The project is also supported by the Hyderabad based Queer rights activists’ group, Mobbera Foundation.
Throwing some light on what the intent is to bring such a space, Adam says “there have been same drag performers who have been performing time and again and hardly any new drag queens are getting opportunities. And we all see the same kind of drag every time so there need to be alternative spaces for bringing opportunities to Indian drag. That was the idea we had to make this space. As a Drag artist, performing since 2007, this is a gift which I would like to give back to my drag community in India.” Adam has recently stepped into the role of being the First south Asian ambassador and first ambassador for the royal campus, Laksha Trust, and promises to do more relevant work for the community in the future.
Adding to the conversation, Abhishek Singhania quoted “the western ball like a scene is something which is needed to be created in India where amateur drag nights become the periphery for new drag artists to come and explore their art form. There are multiple such places where they connect and unite with their art and that’s what we envision with Studio 69 too. We hope to kick start the ballroom scene in India too, once the spaces open post the lockdown.”
Abhishek, who is also a vouge artist themselves, also adds that there should also be “Shade Sessions “ where drag artists come and read on each other. He adds, “Reading helps in creating togetherness and unity among drag artists, these are not to insult them but to celebrate and get over their inhibitions about themselves with a burst of laughter”. Reading is the art of ritual insult as practiced within communities of drag queens, trans people, and queer people of color. The most performative condition was the ‘Reading Challenge’, a formalized challenge each season in which each drag queen reads all her competitors and a winner is chosen. Shade is a subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone—sometimes verbal, and sometimes not. By Bringing shade sessions, we bring the authentic art culture of drag and imbibe it with Indianness.
One of the world’s first openly gay prince and a key changemaker for LGBTQIA+ Rights in India, founder of Laksya Trust, the Prince of Rajpipla, Sri Manvendra Singh Gohil and his partner Duke Hanumanteshwar has been supportive in making this cause fruitful. They quote that “it’s a good opportunity that this platform is going to create visibility of Drag artists particularly in India to create awareness and remove misconceptions which people (including LGBT community) carry about the issues of drag artists”
Dragvanti, an online drag platform that hosts articles, reviews, drag related directories, dictionaries, etc. is collaborating with the team to bring a new line up of drag queens to the studio show. Founder of Dragvanti, Patruni Sastry aka S.A.S says, “I jumped so high with enthusiasm when I heard about the idea and this will be a wonderful platform to bring a new dimension to Indian drag”. Patruni Also added that all the organizations are also working on creating a safe space for drag art to flourish.
Talking about drag art education and how can drag become equal as that of dance and drama, Patruni adds “An art education is a steppingstone to harness the art. So I, Adam and Abhishek are also planning to create a virtual drag school on dragvanti was we bring courses to educate new-gen about the art of drag. The logistics are still in planning, but you should get the updates soon”.
This indeed is something the queer community needs to stick the eye for the upcoming months and spaces like these are always a ray of hope for drag artists who are severely affected due to the ongoing lockdown due to pandemic. We hope we fight it together with love and art.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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