This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saras Jaiswal. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Of Falguni Pathak And India’s Queer Affair With Music Videos

More from Saras Jaiswal

The charm of music videos is well-known. I remember sitting at home, during summer vacations, and patiently waiting for a music channel to play the video I was hoping for. 

The charm of these videos isn’t, however, limited to nostalgic purposes. While newer videos in the Indian media have limited themselves to common stereotypes (misogyny and the like), there was a time when music videos were filled with endless possibilities.

Let us, for instance, go back to the ’90s and explore the unique way in which Falguni Pathak expressed queerness on screen. Her indie music videos included little hints at queerness, here and there… Not to mention her larger-than-life yet soft, gender non-conforming presence.

Falguni Pathak singing at a garba event. Photo credit: Falguni Pathak, Facebook.

Later, she came to be known as one of the earliest queer icons in India, and rightfully so.

Falguni Pathak To The Rescue

In the video of “Meri Chunar Udd Udd Jaye” (my stole is flying away), one sees a story unfolding in mysterious ways. It began with Ayesha Takia entering a castle-like house, which eventually cages her inside.

Along with a white rabbit, she carries with herself memories of the past. Here is when Falguni makes her entry, dancing with Ayesha in the hills. Why did they wear slippers on their hands and dance, remains a mystery to date.

But, Falguni’s unconventional way of going about things doesn’t fail to impress.

In my opinion, the song ends on a note which is open interpretation. Challenging the norms of a hetero-normative relationship, it gave Ayesha’s character the space to explore her emotions.

While one doesn’t know the exact nature of the relationship between Falguni and Ayesha’s characters, one could clearly see the scope for exploration.

One can make an educated guess. Towards the end, the man in the video becomes nothing but a spectator. Just like in many of her other music videos, the woman always has the agency to express herself. 

These expressions might not be monumental, they might be everyday choices. But, the most important out of them is the urge to dream.

This is what Falguni offered to the audience so long ago: the freedom to dream, away from the binaries Indian media shoved down our throats.

Defying What Women ‘Ought’ To Look Like

Falguni never played a major role in her videos either—sometimes, all she would do was to offer her shoulder to a sulking woman. She always managed to make her presence felt though.

And, in the very act of being herself and defying ideas of what a woman is “supposed” to wear,  she taught us the importance of being yourself no matter what. 

In another hit song by her, “Chudi” (bangles), we see a group of young girls living together. They talk about all sorts of things including falling in love.

What was depicted might not have been radical, but what is remarkable about it is the way in which female relationships were shown. 

Falguni let these friendships prosper, never stealing the show and yet, establishing her own presence in them. This is what I find remarkable and in a way, comforting.

As the ’90s were a difficult time to deviate from the norms of heteronormativity, be it any form. Falguni’s creativity in her music videos remains proof of her fearlessness. 

Section 377 Was Read Down, But…

Ever since her, we have hardly seen any queer representation in India’s mainstream, music industry. Even with the reading down of Section 377, there very little mainstream visibility of non-heteronormative identities coming from those identities.

Sure, there have been some movies like “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” of late. We saw the blooming of a gay romance in the film. However, the film had other problematic tropes including crass jokes about being gay, mocking disability, bragging about one’s caste etc.

A still from the film, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Photo credit:

It failed to capture the complexity of what it means to not conform (to heterosexuality) in a country like India. “Aligarh” is a good example of what sensitive, queer cinema can look like, but like most queer characters in the media, its protagonist dies by suicide in the end. 

Coming back to the way music videos, apart from complementing the songs, help provide solace to its audience: there are many such videos, globally, which when watched by people, offer them immense freedom.

The Power Of Visuals

One can feel represented. Whether or not one is actually free, through the act of watching the people in the music video be themselves, one can feel lighter and freer.

One such video, “We Fell In Love In October” by the Norwegian artist Girl in Red, has a certain warmth to it. It shows two women in love in the fall (autumn) season. The colours used in the video slowly blend with the surroundings.

There is an acceptance that comes with the imagery… An acceptance that seeks the acceptance of nobody else, but the two people in love. The softness of their loves matches that of the month of October.

In fact, the music of Pakistan-born Ali Sethi also has queer themes. Although Ali has never verbalised his queerness, it shines through in his music videos.

His soulful songs, be it the recently released “Rung” or a relatively older one, “Chandni Raat”, celebrate various kinds of love through the music video.

The music video has the ability to offer a home to someone watching it, someone who doesn’t have that comfort in their real life.

The power that a visual can have over its audience is immense. A few minutes of comfort can help tackle many hours of struggle.

Featured image is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Falguni Pathak, Facebook.

Note: The author is part of the Sept-Oct ’21 batch of the Writer’s Training Program

You must be to comment.

More from Saras Jaiswal

Similar Posts

By Sas3 Tranimal

By Mythili Kamath

By Harshit Agrawal

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.

        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below