Editor’s Note: This post is a part of What's A Man, a series exploring masculinity in India, in collaboration with Dr. Deepa Narayan. Join the conversation here!
2021 has started in a full swing with people going back to there works and hangout places, the vaccine coming and avenues opening and welcome artists to take the stage. This year for me also started with a ray of new hope and sunshine. The lockdown gave me a great way to explore my art of drag by bending it left right and centre and finding my true calling of what drag means to me. The idea of acceptance and the purpose of putting performance was some thoughts that I pondered on.
As a gender-fluid pan person my self, my drag shifted from one expression to the other, fell in love with both the extreme masculine form I presented, to the most feminine form I dress into. When I decided to come back, I had in my mind to use these aspects to talk about how gender plays a role in the day to day life.
While this was going now, 2021 had offered me one of my amazing gifts I could ever get. Someone who stalked my Instagram for all the drag shows to the one who loves me indefinitely from what I am, what I do to what I envision and my politics of gender. This was the time I fell in love with my to be wife. I felt that she was just me with a different body assigned. Though it puts me up into the conventional “house-hold” set-up that society wants us to be in but in reality, it gave me space to be who I am and what I am with a very strong companion.
So, I ended up putting on a ring and decided to marry in the coming months.
As the marriage dates were fixed the obvious things came first, shopping for the bride, where both side parents rushed to keep the best bride look dress to my partner. And as we were flipping the choices of dresses she would wear, a thought struck my brain, and I asked her, “Why are only bridges given importance to look elegant and beautiful while grooms end up wearing a sherwani and no makeup?”
She said, “Why don’t you dress up as a bride then?”. This question gave me the very next idea to create some work on the parity of gender in the wedding. I came back to Hyderabad and a few days later connected to my stylist friend Aniket for a coffee, I kept this instance forward. Soon, Aniket responded saying that I should do a bridal shoot on the same lines. This is how we ended up creating Potrolekha.
In the following weeks, Aniket connected with the label Renusaa by Saikumar and Rehan, Make-up artist Vaibhav Sunny and Photographer Anindhya Biswas and curated this shoot. We used specially designed jewellery by Aniket Shah’s brand Flirt Diamond and commenced the shoot in Phoenix Arena.
Till then I had an assumption that drag is a solo play, but seeing different individuals coming together to create one art was something that made the project, even closer to my heart. We all agreed to make this project our own. Aniket Shah, the lead of the project, wanted to bring the characterization of Potrolekha a newlywed woman mixing the character with Potrolekha in the poem by Rabindranath Tagore. The first image was a rediscovery of the thought that “Why can’t men be the bride ?” where I was dressed up like a bride ready to be wedded.
Anindya Biswas who was clicking the photographs had to rebuild the backdrop story like of a gender-fluid potrolekha who is shy and timid advising her new husband to go and explore the other side of the world, which can also mean to explore more possibilities of sexuality and sensuality within, waiting for her husband to return.
The costuming by Rehan and Saikumar was a fusion of traditional Bengali bride with a wonderful silk saree complimenting the character. Aniket added his apparel from the flirt diamond wedding collection which uplifted the personality. The face was painted by Vaibhav who bought a balance between the Mystical and real Potrolekha.
This entire photo shoot was a realization for me to see dressing up is nothing to do with what sex we are assigned to birth and the idea that cross-dressing has nothing to do with sexuality. Anyone from a homosexual to heterosexual persons can crossdress. This also questions why only women should carry the sings of being married such as mangalsutra, sindoor and bangles.
After the very first output of photos came, I shared it with my fiancée. She was startled and thrilled to see me dress elegantly, however, and also warned me not to roam like that around or someone would want to marry me.
She even asked me to put a disclaimer that I am already taken by her for every post of my bridal looks, Now that’s stepping up into her true role which I can never take. We discovered how we both felt in each other’s shoes and I got my learning that dressing up as a bride is extremely sad so I was not going to do it again ever. I also promised her that I would be more sensible on the day, where she lives her moment!