When Anmol Singh Gulati began his short film about the art of Drag, little did he know his perspective of the world around would change. On his first solo project, picking Drag could prove to be a little tricky. But he worked his way through and created “Yes, I am a Queen”. His solo film, a debut that delves into the world of Drag and Drag Queens.
Yes, we have written about the art and performance of Drag over and over again. Drag is among the few LGBTQ+ pro performances that add to the LGBTQ+ culture and questions the norm. But as an insider who writes about and attends Drag Shows, I have been able to speak from the perspective of a witness. So, for Anmol, an outsider to the world of drag I was sure had to be different. To take a step towards understanding Drag, and using his own art form of filming to engage with it, is a commendable move.
Let’s hear it from him.
I am Anmol Singh Gulati.
I was born and brought up in New Delhi. And I completed my schooling from Columbia Foundation Sr. Sec. School. I joined Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies for BA(JMC) after dropping out Automobile Engineering from SRM University.
But how I got into Film is a journey that began in my childhood. I was very interested in Media and the entertainment industry since I was a child. I gradually developed an interest in Photography. And then ultimately I switched to cinematography. I began watching films extensively. I had received my calling, and it told me I should be a filmmaker.
But picking Drag for his first-ever solo project? Production, direction, sound, editing, he would already have to run around doing multiple things. So treading into an unfamiliar space and figuring out the light in which Drag would be presented just means extra effort.
A professor of mine and a few of my friends are from the LGBTQ+ community. So I have little exposure to its sensitivities. But I was still a little scared and nervous about talking to the Drag Queens. I have not spoken to gay men or Drag queens before. I did not want to say anything offensive or do anything that offended them.
Luckily for me, they made the entire process easy and created a very comfortable environment to work in.
Choosing to film Drag
Initially, I was planning to film about something related to Trans-Community. But when I dug through YouTube, there were few videos already. Over a few weeks of my research, I watched Gangs of Wasseypur. In the movie, the actors talk about Launda Naach which instantly grabbed my attention. This is how I was lead to Drag.
I was quite fascinated. I watched a couple of episodes of RuPaul’s drag race and a few Drag related movies, like Paris is burning and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything. This helped me with a rough idea about what to expect.
To ensure that I did not have any misconceptions I read-up on the internet. I had a small misconception that only gay men performed Drag, and learnt that it has no such boundaries towards gay or straight people, and that anyone can do it. I also learnt from the first-hand interviews with the queens, as well as my queer professor.
My peers and professors had a lot of expectations. So the performance pressure was set pretty high. I had to deliver a good by-product, and guess what, I received so much appreciation from everyone. It was the topic that worked for me. A major percentage of my friends were not even aware of Drag.
What was your focus? The art, the people, or the community?
All of them. The film covers their personal life as well as the art form. It also engages with the community. The idea is to show everybody how beautiful the art form is and that the people should accept it with open arms. I wanted people to know that Drag queens are extremely capable with their art.
What’s the difference between Launda Naach and Drag?
There is no difference as such. Drag means DRessed as A Girl. Similarly, in Launda Naach, a man gets into the dress of a woman and dances for an audience. It can basically be considered cross-dressing. They both began in times when women were not allowed to dance or perform.
As you pointed out, Drag or Launda Naach began because women were not allowed to perform on stage. But since we have moved on from there, how would you still validate drag?
Drag has evolved to become a form of self-expression. The drag queens are so happy performing themselves and exploring their feminine side with such glamour. I learnt that it is not just a performance, it is something that lets people explore other sides to themselves, put on the shoes of the opposite gender. There is some amount of femininity in everyone, and the queens just have the courage to be that in front of people.
They love doing what they do, and
All they need is acceptance from society. Not validation. And I see no wrong in it.
Have you observed a development in the capturing of the LGBTQ+ in the mainstream cinema?
Movies are basically entertainment heavy. So the representation of LGBTQ can sometimes be left behind. But recently, I watched the movie, “Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh” featuring Sonam Kapoor. I liked it because the film revolved around the representation of LGBTQ+ from the beginning to the end. It also addressed an important misconception. The perception that being gay is a disease. In the movie, Sweety’s(Sonam Kapoor) brother calls her ill. But she explains it to him and to her parents with the help of a play that being gay is not a disease. The support from the hero in the movie also depicts how friends can help each other grow, and be accepting of each other.
As we grow into a more inclusive world everyday, moments like this help us realise that there is hope for everyone. You don’t have to make a film to learn about things you don’t know. You can read up and spread the right information. Every conversation is an opportunity to raise awareness. This weekend, try and watch a drag performance, learn how to be a good ally, appreciate art as art.