In Hollywood, from Dustin Hoffman starrer Tootsie (1982, USA) to Victor-Victoria, Mrs.Doubtfire, The Cockettes and Wigstock (1994, USA) there have been some really sensitive and honest attempts to capture the spirit & saga of Drag on celluloid. Not to forget the inimitable Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Bird Cage.
In India, the concept of men dressing up and performing as women has been prevalent from ancient times and these men were treated with dignity & respect. Earlier Indian films even had men performing as women because women were not allowed to act in films.
That was more of a necessity.
But later, it was more for fun - most of the top Bollywood stars have been in drag! Right from the 60's chocolate hero- Bishwajeet (in the song "Reshmi Salwar Kurta Jaali ka " from Kismat) and 70's chocolate boy Rishi Kapoor (in Rafoo Chakkar along with Paintal) to 90's chocolate boy- Amair Khan (in Baazi) and Kamal Hassan (in Chachi 420), and not to forget, even the star of millennium- Amitabh Bachhan (in the song "Mere Agane mein " from Lawaris) most of the Bollywood heroes have performed in drag.
But in recent times, in Bollywood, the concept of drag has been reduced to a caricature - mainly for dramatic convenience or for crude comedy.
Mercifully there have been a couple of poignant portrayals too - not of drag queens, but of Hijras (Paresh Rawal in Tamanna and Sayyaji Shinde in Darmiyaan). Only one true Maharani (Drag Queen) stands out - Sadashiv Amrapurkar in Sadak, but as a negative character.
That apart, there has also been a few attempts at producing gay films (the short and sweet 'BomGay', the touching 'Summer in My Veins' and the yet to be released 'Mango Souffle'), which are all in English. But there has not been a single film that spoke about the drag queens in their own language - Hindi.
Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror) is the first Hindi narrative film about Indian drag queens.
How the film evolved
interacted with the most wonderful gay men and seen some really sizzling performances
of drag queens in Bombay, Bangalore and Delhi, I was really eager to make
a film that reflects their true feelings.
A film that has drag queens as its protagonist and not just as yet another character. A film that would delve deep into their hearts and unearth emotions that have been closeted till date.
A film that would be true.
That's how the 'The Pink Mirror' script evolved. A slice-of-life story about two Indian drag queens - their laughter, tears, passion and pathos. A riotous spicy mix of dance, drama and desire! Bollywood recipe served with sensitivity!
Though the outline of the film was written over a year ago, I could find no producer to back it. Nobody wanted to produce a short film on a taboo subject. Finally I had to produce it under my own company banner as an indie film. And I am happy I did so, because I could work without any external forces that would hamper creative decisions. Every call on every detailing was my very own.
Critical creative decisions
One of the most crucial decision was casting. I knew Ramesh and Edwin, two fine performers who had worked with me on earlier projects. I could trust them to do full justice to the characters and I think my trust has been well-founded. They have done an amazing job. Rishi breezed into the office one day (on a friends' recommendation) and I felt he fitted Mandy's role to the tee. (Though I had Rishi's picture on my comp since months, I had never considered him. Now he looked so different in person. One more lesson learnt - always meet an actor face-to-face!). He brought out the shy, innocent western gay so well.
The next creative effort was to create a Queen's boudoir, a space that every drag queen would identify with a house that every drag queen would want to live in. Gold, lace, glitter, shimmer and of course the Pink Mirror. The Pink Mirror symbolised the confidante. A queen spends most of her time in front of a mirror that is witness to her tears, laughter, passion and pathos. And in the film most of the important dramatic sequences are played out in front of this mirror.
quite clear that I didn't want to make a melodramatic film that would be preachy.
I wanted a film that the queens themselves would enjoy as their own film.
Of course I also want it to be acceptable to a wider audience (read non-gay).
It was a fine-line. I wanted them to laugh with the characters, not laugh at them.
I hope I have succeeded in speaking a universal language.
I am keeping my fingers crossed. And my mind open to the brickbats and (hopefully) bouquets.
~ Sridhar Rangayan
ne, BBC, British Council
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