Have you ever seen a drag queen walking in the streets and performing? This is exactly what the people from the city of Hyderabad witnessed for the very first time. A group of young teams from the Mobbera Foundation, an organization that works for LGBTQIA rights, in association with Telangana State Council of Aids Control Society (TSCAS) and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), together presented a unique way of spreading awareness with specially curated ‘Flash Mob’.
This was one of its kind where classical expressionist dance, Bollywood and Drag came together to pass a message. People from all walks of life—doctors, artists, software engineers, students, and officials came together and danced on one beat.
The performance started with an expressionist dance presentation called as Nirodh or contraception by Patruni Chidananda Sastry, where he used two unique masks to talk about two adults romanticizing and processing attraction. At the same time, this is happening, he immediately runs and picks up a giant condom-like prop and plunges the mask in it (symbolizing usage of a condom) and hoisting the condom straight up in the air. This performance makes the audience get right onto the subject and creates curiosity. This is the time when the volunteers go into the public and share condoms.
Following the act, the members of the Mobbera foundation join the stage and perform on a few retro Bollywood numbers. With a mix of filmy music, they create an act called Sweekar. The act goes on to showcase how HIV is spread and the discrimination a person affected with HIV faces within society. That’s when a voice comes up “HIV is not spread by touch, they are a part of society, and let’s respect and co-exist together”. Post the act, the team gets into a happy song.
The song ending brings a surprise element where Patruni Sastry in Trainmal Drag avatar Mohini D ’vi joins the team and titillates the crowd. This is the very first-time art of drag is taken into the streets, and it comes out of both pubs and club cultures. The crowd goes bonkers. Drag takes the leap and together creates a statement that prevention is better than cure. In the end, the team puts up slogans like, “Prevention is better than cure, use condoms and have safe fun”.
This performance was presented in more than 25 public locations, including the most crowded railway stations of Secundrabad, Nampally Railway station, Punjagutta Central Mall, Kachiguda Railway station, Lumbini Park, Public Gardens, JBS Bustop, Rtc Bus stops, etc., for more than two weeks, and then finally, it was presented at an event at Ravindra Bharati Hyderabad.
Talking about the experience, Patruni Chidananda Sastry said “Well, I loved the idea when Sandy informed about me about this project. We were in a situation where the classical dance was confined to auditoriums and stages, expressionism helped me in bringing dance so close to the audience, it’s like where the art and people meet at the same level. The toughest part was doing drag; people were excited, mad and equally shocked to see something like this.
I still remember some random guys, auto drivers, etc., following me post the performance with their eyes full of lust. They were coming to see if I could offer them something. This situation reminds me of the Drag Phobia showcased in pubs and clubs in the city. However, it was a rebellious thought to include drag to make a statement that “the world is my stage, and I don’t need your permission.”
Sandipan Kushary, the founder of Mobbera foundation, also confessed the hardships taken to make this event possible. He adds “Even when we are backed by a government project and take valid permission from the government body, we still had to explain to the authorities at these places about the event and intrusively tackle Homophobia, drag phobia, and transphobia.
Rather than seeing the cause and involvement of the government, we are ridiculed for our way of being ourselves. There were a few authorities such as Prasad’s and Nehru Gardens who directly rejected the permit making ridiculous excuses even when we had the approval of the government officials. However, we were determined to do what we aimed to, and it’s the team effort which made us achieve what we wanted.”
Anil Kohli, the co-founder of Mobbera foundation, also added, “the major problem is the sensitization of people. As Hyderabad is the state most affected with HIV as per a recent survey, it is extremely crucial to educate people about safe sex. We were able to cover most of the city and influence more than 10,000 people to get tested. It was all done with the support of TSACS and AHF, which helped us in making this event successful”.
The highlight of the performance was when Shane Williams, a trans woman and a corporate worker, joined the mob, bringing drag queen and trans women together on one platform. Though there is always a misconception about drag queens and transgenderism, seeing both shaking on the same beat made a statement of inclusion and awareness.
The above article was first published here.