Did you ever see a drag queen walking on the streets and performing? This is exactly what people from the city of Hyderabad witnessed for the very first time. A group of young teams from Mobbera Foundation, an organization which 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 to mark World AIDS Day. This was a one of its kind drive where classical expressionist dance, Bollywood and Drag came together to send a message. People from all walks of life such as doctors, artists, software engineers, students and officials came together and danced to the same beat.
The performance started with an expressionist dance presentation called as NIRRODH or condom by Patruni Chidananda Sastry where he used two unique masks to talk about two adults romanticizing and processing attraction. While this was happening, he immediately ran and picked up a Giant Condom (prop) and plunged the mask into it (symbolizing usage of condom) and hoisted the condom in the air up and straight. The performance made the audience dive right into the subject and generated curiosity. Just then; the volunteers went to the public and distributed condoms.
Following the act, the members of Mobbera foundation performed a few retro songs of Bollywood. With a mix of filmy music, they created an act called Sweekar. The act explained how HIV is spread and the discrimination faced by a person affected with HIV.
The last performance had a surprise element for the public when Patruni Sastry in his Drag avatar Mohini D ’vi plunged into the crowd and titillated them. This was the very first-time that the art of drag was taken out of pubs and club cultures into the streets. At the end, the team put 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 for more than 2 weeks and then finally presented at curtain faller event at Ravindra Bharati Hyderabad.
Talking about the experience Patruni Chidananda Sastry said, “Well, I really loved the idea when Sandy informed me about this project, when we are in situation where classical dance is confined to auditoriums and stages, expressionism helps me to bring dance so close to the audience, it’s like where the art and people come on the same level. The toughest part was doing Drag. People were excited, mad and equally shocked to see something like this before. I still remember some random guys, auto drivers, etc. following me post the performances with their eyes full of lust. They were coming to see if I can offer them something. This situation reminds me of the Drag Phobia showcases in pubs and clubs in the city. However, this was a rebellion thought to include drag to make a statement that ‘world is my stage, and I don’t need your permission’.”
Sandipan Kushary, founder of Mobbera foundations also confesses the hardship taken to make this event possible. He adds “Even when we are backed by a government project and taking valid permission by a government body. We still had to explain to authorities about the event and intrusively tackle Homophobia, drag phobia and transphobia. Rather than seeing the cause and involvement of the government we are rather ridiculed for our way of being ourselves. There were few authorities such as Prasad’s and Nehru gardens who directly rejected the permit giving lame excuses even when we had approvals from government officials. However, we were determined and it’s the team effort which made us achieve what we wanted.” Anil Kohli, Co-founder of Mobbera foundation also added, “The major problem is the sensitization of people. As Hyderabad is the state with highest HIV rates as per a recent survey, there was an immense need to educate people about safe sex. We were able to cover most of the city and influence more than 10000 people to get tested. It was all the support by TSACS and AHF which helped us in making this successful”.
The highlight of the performance was when Shane Williams, a transwoman and a corporate worker, joined the mob bringing drag queen and trans women together at one platform. Though there is always a misconception of drag queens and transgender, seeing both shaking a beat made a statement of inclusion and awareness.