Hyderabad recently witnessed their first-ever DRAG-Con and we had the opportunity to speak to the host of the event. Patruni Sastry and a few of his friends got together to bring drag to the people of the pearl city. The event was a success. The event showcased a variety of genres and gave people a wholesome experience of what it truly means.
But instead of me ranting on, here’s what Patruni himself had to say.
Read all about the DRAG Con: HYDERABAD’S FIRST EVER DRAGCON HAS US SQUEALING!
Drag con (Con being convocation/conference) is a global event celebrated in NYC. However, I have always wondered why we don’t celebrate Drag globally. In India, it is already an integral part of the country’s performing arts. Like with Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and Yaskshagana. This was the thought behind the curation of DRAG CON.
Apart from that we also wanted to celebrate the fact that we cracked a mainstream venue for a full-length drag performance in our city. After multiple rejections.
This event was an educative extravaganza of different styles and performative aspects coming under one roof. A collaboration with Humans of Nirvana, a collective group of artists and Hyderabad Drag Club (an organization which brings up drag performances in the city of Hyderabad)
To be honest I was apprehensive that the turn out will be as low as 10 to 15. Especially since the event was on the day of the Diwali festival. And the sensitization the Hyderabad is pretty low as well.
Yet, we received more than a hundred attendees of a mixed crowd. Some from the LGBTQIA+ community and some wonderful Allies. Most of whom turned up dressed in costumes. We were thrilled to host the event and have a wonderful evening together. Performing, organizing and celebrating it with rainbow colors.
Since the venue was a brewery house, the con majorly saw attendees of 18 and above years. However, we are planning to include kids and bring in selective venues for the future.
But Why DRAG Con?
I wanted to bring in the diversity of drag and not just limiting the artform to standards of beautification or camping. For me, it is performance art. It has a political, influential language that spreads across the audience base. As my base style is tranimal drag (also called as drag terrorism) I use it as an outburst to question the beauty standards and bring appearance activism. I deck up in trash or masks and shoeless feet to represent people of different skin deficiencies. With the help of drag we question the very fact of fashion, beauty and gender norms. We tell the world ‘I am a human and I can wear anything or everything I choose to’.
Why do you think Hyderabad is struggling to find LGBT+ friendly outlets?
I think people are unaware of the difference between cross-dressing, transvestite, and Drag. People seem to think that a drag performer is either a transgender or a cross-dresser. And performs the art for sexual expression. This is untrue. People don’t understand that cross-dressing is an identity and drag is not. It involves performance and the dressing up is purely for the performance.
When we approached venues, we were denied immediately because they thought hosting a pro-LGBTQ+ event would lead to legal issues. Performing it in clubs is not considered classy. Some venues are on for Rainbow parties (queer parties) but not for Drag. They assume that it is gross and sexual. A few even suggested that we book a farmhouse and hold a self-funded party instead of approaching pubs and clubs.
While this was going on, we found homophobic people creating rumors around the city on WhatsApp messages and Instagram handles. They told people that this is an illegal event and would be cancelled.
After more than 10 clubs rejecting the performance collaboration, we finally got a positive response from one.
The performances are not illegal. We have our own freedom of expression which the country gives us all as citizens. I believe clubs should use inclusion as an opportunity to boost their brand value and be better known in the market. When inclusivity is followed, a business flourishes.
All about the Performance
I began to perform this year as a part of my pride month affirmation to bring it into mainstream culture. I learnt about it because of my research. Working on performance art and found people like DIVINE, OOZING GLOOP, Fade-Dra Phey, Squeaky Blonde, Divine David and many other performers. Though Rupaul’s drag race was a ray of inspiration to learn about the art, I found my motivation from off-beat drag subculture. Mainly tranimal movement which made a huge mark on my approach.
World Outside Twined Within
I have a huge bunch of friends who often attend the events. They drop their commitments exclusively for my shows. One of my female colleagues even said I find you more masculine in drag, and some “aww” me every time I post videos of my performances online.
Also with the Hyderabad drag club, which I consider my baby, I began to bring potential extraordinary queens. Those who have a complete understanding of the culture. I encourage them to perform in our events.
To Mainstream or Not To Mainstream
For me mainstream culture means acceptance. I want it to be accepted as easily as live music performance. We should bring it back in the theater since that’s where it all started. The performances should be government-funded as they also represent the culture of the country.
And maybe even award the Padmasri/Padmabhushan (Highest civilian award) to a deserving Drag performer? We also deserve national recognition. Making it mainstream is to make it acceptable. An aspiring art for kids to learn.
The satisfaction of the Alter
Performing satisfies my alter ego. I turn myself into something extraterrestrial and that pushes my limits. The most exciting thing about drag is that there are no inhibitions. It becomes my Bramhastra (weapon) to talk about the issues in the world.
Movements like Fifty Shades of Gay
Fifty Shades of Gay is a call-out movement for acceptance. This is very needed in order to create acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. This movement helps all of us stand together and scream “We are here, WE ARE QUEER”.
Would you ever take your straight friends to a Drag performance like you take them to a live concert? Let us know.
Read Next: THE OUTSIDER’S PERSPECTIVE TO DRAG