BENGALURU: When Alex Mathew started performing as a drag artiste six years ago, he was clueless about the art form in India. Having only pop culture resources like Chachi 420 or RuPaul’s Drag Race for reference back then, today, Mathew – whose performance name is Maya the Drag Queen – is glad he can now point drag aspirants in the direction of a one-stop resource: Dragvanti. Founded by Hyderabad-based drag performer, Patruni Chidananda Sastry, the new platform provides information about the art form and latest developments and events taking place as well. “There are so many misconceptions. People think drag performers are cross dressers or sexually starved. It’s great to see a platform bust, and educate people, about these stereotypes,” says Bengaluru-based Mathew, who has been a supporter of the platform.
Dragvanti is also Sastry’s way of giving back to the art form. “Currently, the art form is not recognised by the government or recognised for any national awards,” says Sastry, a performing artiste and dancer, who wanted to give people easily accessible information on the history of drag, the different art styles under it and a platform that would enable collaborations.
A feature allows artistes to make profiles for themselves, so that they can reach out to performers across the country. “So besides information about events or opportunities, we can also put a number to how many drag performers are there,” says Sastry. Other offerings of the platform include discussion groups and a once-in-three-months digital magazine Drag Vati. Sastry is also on the lookout for ambassadors, who will provide informations about events happening int heir cities.
The platform was launched on June 9, which, interestingly, marked a year since Sastry embarked their journey with drag. Now performing under the name of Suffocated Art Specimen (S.A.S), Sastry’s work falls under the ‘tranimal’ style of drag, or as Dragvanti describes it: Tranimal drag deconstructs fashion and makeup, often using found objects, elements of surrealism and mixes of performance art, punk rock, racial and social issues. These drag queens often purposely use unkempt wigs and clothing.
Most still hide male attributes, but don’t necessarily shave or tuck , creating a constant push and pull between the genders. As a result, Sastry’s get-up often involves the use of items like different wigs, masks, curtains or paper costumes, which is adorned in a way that’s different from the usual aesthetic of beauty that drag highlights. “It creates a post-modern surreal effect where you convert normally available objects into pieces of art. And since you’re covered with all these things, your gender gets disillusioned too,” they add.