Gender identity must be kept away from art: Alex Mathew

... says drag performer Alex Mathew, who stars in Maya, a music video on realities of a transwoman’s life 
Alex Mathew’s dream is to do a drag performance in Kerala, his native state  Nagaraja Gadekal
Alex Mathew’s dream is to do a drag performance in Kerala, his native state  Nagaraja Gadekal

BENGALURU: I started drag queen performances in September 2014, when I finally realised my true self. There were many humiliating experiences and rejections along the way,” recalls Alex Mathew, during the interview at a city night club, where he performs as a drag queen, Maya. As he looks out the glass window of the building’s sixth floor, he adds that he now sees a bright future for this art form. Case in point: A Kannada music video, titled Maya, on the journey of a transwoman, featuring Mathew, which has amassed over 3,000 views on YouTube.

Produced by Dot Dot Boom production house and Rainbow Bridge School, the video was released last month and focuses on the realities of a transwoman’s life. “I have worked with transwomen in many NGOs and I know what they are going through. In the video, there is one scene where the protagonist sits in a bus, but a woman asks her to get up instead. Things like this may be small but show the severity of social ignorance,” explains Mathew.  

The most unforgettable moment for Mathew was the scene where he had to hold the protagonist Maya’s child, a scene Mathew hopes will one day be a reality for him. “Someday, I hope I too will bid my family goodbye after I put on make up and get ready for work,” he says. 

But the bigger dream Mathew harbours is to perform in Kerala, his native state, which according to him still has a long way to go before considering drag performances an art. “In Bengaluru, people are more welcoming. Here, I have travelled in my drag avatar as well. From cab drivers to employers, people accept who you are,” says Mathew, solemnly adding that gender identity must be kept away from art. 

Inspired by the late Rajasthani drag queen Harish Kumar, Mathew says he recognised his true self when he came to Bengaluru and hopes to continue inspiring others the way Kumar inspired him. When asked about his onscreen debut, he tells CE that drag performance is a growing art form and there’s hope for more to join the profession. “New characters, like Vijay Sethupathi’s in Super Deluxe or Jayasurya’s in the Malayalam movie Njan Marykkutti, are giving us hope. I would definitely take projects like Maya if the content is good,” he adds.  

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