Make way for the Rani
Drag artist Sushant Divgikar is one of the contestants on a music reality show. Here he talks about introducing drag as a mainstream performing art
With the core thought of ‘music for all’, the new season of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which premieres tonight on Zee TV, focusses on inclusive music across genres that does not discriminate. The show will bring alive a deeply transformative force of music that not only reflects the mindset of today’s society but also liberates people from the shackles of caste, gender and race.
Sushant Divgikar, former Mr Gay India, drag artist and former Bigg Boss participant, is one of the contestants. Sushant, who will be performing as Rani Ko-HE-Nur, the drag queen, aims to bring drag as a performing art into mainstream.
“I can’t think of a better platform to perform as a drag queen than this show that has stood the test of time for 23 years. It is a show that I have watched as a kid. Also, I’m the first member from the LGBT community to participate in a singing reality show as a drag artist. This is the first time ever that someone will perform in drag on Indian television,” he says.
Sushant believes that he is opening doors for others to come forward and perform whoever they want to be — drag queen/drag king (A drag queen is a person, usually a man, who dresses in feminine clothes and make-up for special occasions, often to perform, entertain or engage in social activism).
When asked if his participation will inspire and encourage other artists to come forward on TV and shows like these, he says that he is very happy that this is happening. “I was very excited when I went for the audition. More than me, the people around me were enthusiastic when they saw me. They have always seen me as Sushant on TV and not as Rani Ko-HE-Nur, so they assumed that I had come for some special performance. Other contestants were dressed in basic jeans and t-shirt/tops and I was dressed as if I was going to get married in a ghaghra choli with long hair, big flowers and beautiful make-up. I loved the attention,” he says, adding, “LGBTQ artists should come out of their closet to showcase their talent. I know they have to be cautious and careful because they come under pressure. However, after Supreme Court’s judgement, I think they will be more comfortable being a part of such shows.”
Talking about how he got into drag, Sushant says that Rani Ko-HE-Nur was actually born in a nightclub in Mumbai where he performed for the first time. “When Keshav Suri, executive director of Lalit Hospitality Group, saw me perform, he insisted that I develop a drag character and start performing as a drag queen. It is all because of Mr Suri and Kitty Su, the nightclub that promotes drag as an art form,” he adds.
Sushant, who loves pop genre, is cool and stylish, while his alter ego Rani Ko-HE-Nur is feminine with a lot of panache.
“Being Rani Ko-HE-Nur has been a very good journey till now and I think it is going to be great in future as well. She is very similar to Sushant, yet very different.
Honestly speaking, Sushant is also quite a ‘queen’ himself. Rani is the queen of queen, hence she is way more royal, sophisticated and elegant than Sushant. Sushant just wishes that he could be as sophisticated as Rani, but it doesn’t happen,” he quips.
Sharing his thoughts on the drag art, Sushant says that drag, as an art form, has been deep-rooted in the Indian culture. “It is just that we didn’t call it drag back then. We’ve had so many men perform as women in the past, but they were mocked. The male Bharatanatyam and Kathakali dancers, perform like females, in beautiful attire, with those delicate expressions. They were called names and told things like, ‘You are not a man,’ ‘You are such a sissy’ and stuff like that. But my point is, if a man can perform as a woman, better than a woman herself, that’s the quality of a great artist. We didn’t have a well-defined genre called drag in the past, but now people are recognising it. Times are changing and it will only get better in future,” he says and concludes.