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Photo Project: Vishkanya with Sajiv Pasala by Manab Das

Where patriarchy ends, expression begins: An Indian gothic drag art performance

The lore of vishkanya is intoxicating in its effect on the Indian cultural discourse. The “poisonous maiden”, enrobed in myth and legend, carries an ominous mark. It is a secret that hangs heavy in the air; neither fully embraced, nor completely eschewed. It passes on in grim looks, exchanged as demure whispers, understood as cautionary tales in traditional set-ups. Like all things clandestine, its lure indulges social dogmas and inspires a web of fancy.

But for Patruni Chinanda Sastry, the lure doesn’t warrant loyalty to the myth. The 28-year-old artist is known for many things: dancing, drag art, LGBTQI+ activism. Which means that he knows exactly how to turn the prism outwards. If anything, he believes, the myth demands a closer look, a dissection, a complete evisceration if needed. It’s been eight months since I stepped back on stage but it seems like I’ve lived 100 years. As usual my art wants to critique the masculinity femininity of the status quo.

With a friend of mine Sajiv Pasala I came up with the concept of a photo performance to represent Indian Goth. We wanted to see how drag fits in. Ace photographer Manab Das, Sajiv and I with safety and abiding to the new normality came together in my house to capture the photo performance.

Our references were the folk tales of Dayan, Witches and Chudails, cause its so easily used. The performance was of a storyline of a feminine goth, Vissskanya, with revealing moustache and body hair, seducing and embracing the lover, as they go through the idea of how to abide their love when she has choked masculinity to death. The shoot took around two hours.

I realised the medium of drag is not restricted to the stage, but transcends it on multiple avenues. Drag is an interdisciplinary art. The series was a slap back to witch shaming. It also helps us embrace the tiny little community of Goth culture with PRIDE.

Picture Credits Manab Das

Artists Patruni Sastry and Sajiv Pasala

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