Bold and Fabulous: Meet India’s Iconic Drag Artists!

These Drag Queens and Kings slayyyy! They have created a conversation and given people the courage to be who they are through their drag in a nation where homosexuality is still viewed with scorn and where members of the LGBTQ community are still treated criminally if they engage in certain sexual behaviors. Although the drag scene in the nation is not as developed as it is in the West, several drag queens have consistently smashed glass ceilings.  
RuPaul, a contemporary drag legend, once said: “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.” These artists go one step farther and construct relatable identities using their physical features and attire. They create an identity that they believe is inside of them using cosmetics, clothing, and other random objects. Drag as an art form may not be as prevalent in India as it is in the West, but it is also not a subdued whisper, it is developing and thriving in recent times. It is raucous, vicious, and incredibly bold. The most varied, gender-fluid, and incredibly fierce crowd in India continues to congregate at Kitty Su. Here are some of the drag queens and kings who are taking drag to the next level! 

Rani KoHEnur A.K.A Sushant Divgikr 
KWEEN SLAYS EVERY TIME! She is just one of a kind! Rani is the only native-born Indian drag performer who has appeared abroad, from Bangladesh to Sweden and from London to Thailand. Sushant Divgikr has her own radio program, appears on TV, and has received great praise for her performances abroad. Rani is a performer at heart and the prototypical strong drag queen who doesn’t give a damn what people think. She recently became the ‘First Indian Drag Artist’ to on the first season of Queens of the Universe and as well as RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 2017, she made her nightclub debut as Rani KoHEnur, doing drag alongside Violet Chachki. Rani’s parents serve as her inspiration and motivate her to work harder each day. She wants to encourage as many queens as she can by telling them that they should strive to be their best selves. There is no competition with other people. It is one’s own self. 

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Durga Gawde  
Indian drag king, artist, educator, and activist Durga Gawde. They are nonbinary, pansexual, and genderfluid. Durga describes RISD as “a secure space for people to experiment and express themselves” and attributes their time there to help them find their identity. ‘Don’t forget that you are the winning sperm, you defeated more odds to be alive in this world than you will ever have to cope with while you are living,’ is the slogan that Durga lives by.  

Betta Naan Stop A.K.A Prateek Sachdeva 
She is the queen of lip-syncing and dancing. For the past three years, she has performed drag. Her inspiration comes from powerful female actors and models who stand poised in auto shows, among other examples of women in the entertainment business, like a girl who is holding the scoreboard during a combat bout, to a Vegas showgirl or the dancer who has no lines in the Broadway musical’s lead. 

Zeesh A.K.A Zeeshan Ali 
Zeeshan Ali is a visual artist who breaks no rules and combines art with variety. While Zir’s works feature a vivid explosion of cosmetics, designing, styling, photography, modelling, and live performances, Ze is authentic yet whimsical. Zeesh is a drag character who believes that he can be anyone he wants to be and who is gender fluid. From elegantly posing for Vogue India to energising the crowd with explosive lip sync performances. Zeesh’s performances are a seamless fusion of vintage and futuristic abstract components. Ze comes to life on stage; it’s home! 

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Rimi Heart A.K.A Sudipto Biswas 
Rimi loves to think of herself as the drag version of The Elusive Chanteuse. She has a tendency to raise and match her aesthetic to the same pitch as the notes she sings. Rimi, who is based in Bangalore, believes in divine femininity and aspires to uphold women’s rights. A singing queen’s voice and vocals are everything. Rimi is a typical performer in that she is a singer-songwriter as well as a drag performer. 

Shabnam Be-We-Fa A.K.A Nitish Anand 
One of the country’s youngest drag performers, she also runs Nazariya’s PR, performs with Kitty Su and at several foreign embassies in India and is a TEDx speaker. She’s a dancing, attractive queen who prefers high-street fashion photo sessions. She has been performing drag for about three years. She used to cringe every time she thought about it, but she also wanted to give it a shot. When she finally did, she fell in love with it. She draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including international drag queens, Western and Indian movies, theatre groups, and regular people. 

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Mohanta, also known as Bidishah, exudes an unyielding atmosphere. At the age of 21, she performed in drag for the first time at Kitty Su, an all-inclusive nightclub in New Delhi. She was the lone drag king performing that night among a parade of colourful drag queens—men costumed as women who perform in vibrant costumes, tight corsets, and beehive hairstyles. This disparity is reminiscent of the situation in all of India, where kings—women who portray men—have largely been left out of discussions about the art form and silently coexist with a traditionally neglected subculture. 

Patruni Sastry 
Patruni Chidananda Sastry is an expert in customer service, an entrepreneur, and classical dance. Patruni began dancing when she was 7 years old. Expressionism, Patruni Sastry’s distinctive artistic style, is a fresh method to convey socially conscious storytelling. With organisations like the Mobbera Foundation, Mental Health Organization, Good Universe, Mist, Namma Pride, Human Library, and the Humsafar trust, Patruni Sastry shares his talent for dancing. Additionally, he has participated in other dance festivals, such as the Golden Beach Festival and the Kalpashree Dance Festival. Patruni also invented a brand-new technique for delivering poems and narrating stories. Patruni has worked on a distinctive form of dance he calls “Expressionism,” in which he hopes to convey societal awareness through movement. 

Kween Malika 
You are in awe after taking just one look at Mallika’s Instagram account. In Toronto, Mallika, a scientist and performer, is known as the Madhuri Dixit of Drag. Being a huge lover of Madhuri and Bollywood, it should come as no surprise that Mallika’s drag performance is entertaining. 

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Nilay Joshi A.K.A Miss Bhenji 
The QUEEN who stands for Bollywood’s style. She’s witty, eccentric, and chock full of surprises. Every time she performs, she is overly positive and enthusiastic. Her audience is her strongest asset, and she is not here to win friends or influence people but rather to make a point through teamwork. She is the loveliest person until you make statements that are primarily dragphobic, homophobic, or transphobic. Her talents lie in humour and dancing. Both cute boys and ill-fitting clothing are her weaknesses.

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