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Dragging the Carnatic Swing

Updated: May 19, 2020

Hyderabad recently saw a spectacular intermix of pop culture and tradition together. Celebrating the June world Pride month and the Commenced World music day, Hyderabad witnessed a harness amalgamation of Carnatic Music with Drag culture.

Drag popularly known as Drag queens are performance artists, almost always male, who dress in women's clothing and often act with exaggerated femininity and in feminine gender roles with a primarily entertaining purpose. They often exaggerate make-up such as eyelashes for dramatic, comedic or satirical effect. They vary widely by class, culture, and dedication, from professionals who star in films to people who try drag very occasionally. Roopanurupam or Strivesham as the Indian culture calls drag is significantly seen as a part of mainstream dance cultures such as Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Gotipura where male dancers impersonate to women characters to present bhakti through dance/ theater or drama.

“Tuning to KannaDRAGoulam” as the event was titled came from the raga name “Kanandagroulam ” with an added Drag to it. This presentation saw Hyderabad’s Drag Artist Patruni Sastry drag up and perform as “Mohini Devi” and sing Carnatic songs and Bhajans. a fusion of Carnatic music and drag, with silk Kanjeevaram sarees and a big bhindi paired up with a multicolored hairdo that only Sastry could rock it the way he does. Sastry was Mohini amma for the day, a wise lady who carried with her a lot of experiences and openness and of course a patronage of culture. This was an Adaptation of the much old culture of Jogawati or Joggappa traditions where men dress up as women and sing songs, The Jogappas are one of the least known transgender communities in north Karnataka and parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. As most transformation stories documented have it, they are “caught” or possessed by the goddess Yellamma and regarded as holy women. It’s a gender-fluid world where a person’s early religious background has little significance. “I was fascinated by the Drag culture but often find it perplexed to see not being oriented with bhakti outside the world. Drag has been there for many centuries but Indian drag couldn’t get representation in the west. I think the west copied drag from India. With the pop culture, Intermixing the elements of Bhakti and crafting well the Carnatic essence together without deviating from its structure is what made the event stick to its roots” said Patruni who is a Bharatanatyam dancer too. The presentation started with a storm of Ganesa Panchatantra followed by an Annamacharya keertanam “Yentamatramuna” sung in a Masculine voice of Mohini D’vi.

The event saw famous Hindustani Singer Harini Rao as a guest. Aditi Myakal, a well-known Telugu actress, performed kuchipudi dance “Bhamakalapam” impersonating as Satyabhama, Sravya Kothalanka a well know telugu musician bought a wonderful aura by singing carnatic music piece “Krishna Nee Begame”. The event ended with Patruni Chidananda Sastry and Bhagi Shravani of Nirvana expressing their gratitude to the city for its unwavering support to the cause.

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