“Drag, is an art form known to few, especially in my own circles. Once I learned more, I was captivated, how beautiful and empowering this art form is. And I had to share this with others.” When Anmol Singh Gulati speaks, his love for the craft is evident in his words.
When I reached out to him over Whatsapp for a chat, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the other side. But, he managed to grab my attention and respect from the first few minutes in, just like his film, Yes I’m a Queen. I’ve reviewed movies in the past, but this was the first time I was covering a documentary. I was a bit confused on how I’m going to present this. That chat we had, pretty much put my worries to rest. He was passionate about his work, and that was something I understood well.
A journalism student who wished to be a documentary filmmaker, Anmol wanted to contribute something to the trans community when he came across Drag culture and was captivated. “I had my final project in which we have to choose our forte, so i chose filmmaking. I was previously thinking to create something on the trans community. I researched a bit. There were some short films and videos out there, and among them, a nod to the art of Drag. Drag, is an art form known to few, especially in my own circle. Once I learned more, I was captivated, how beautiful and empowering this art form is. And I had to share this with others.” And he’s done a neat job with that. The life throbbing portrait the film paints about the Drag lifestyle, seems effortless.
“I was hooked from the beginning. This is an art form that’s slowly gaining popularity around the world, and here in India, no one’s talking about it- no one in the general audience anyway.” The discussion was heating up and my tea was getting colder. “So, I decided to do a story on this. I wanted to get up close, to really capture the heart and soul of not just the art, but the artists’ as well.”
The film, just like our young and ambitious director, doesn’t shy away from a topic that our traditionalist society would consider a taboo. “More than the crossdressing, and the performance, Drag is a path to freedom. Away from the masculine and feminine norms established by the conformist society, it provides a space where you can be whoever you wish to be, instead of who you’re supposed to be. Most of the queens interviewed, have their own separate identities in the society. For them, Drag is a way to be free, to express and to enjoy. They are not without struggles. Some of them were lucky enough to be accepted, some weren’t.” The film makes a strong point, and a necessary one.
“A strong sense of transphobia is still present in our communities. The solution starts with awareness. I think, social media, and our circle play a major role. Also, as a director, my key role should be the execution of my idea and to hit the soft spot so that the audience could relate with the content they are viewing.” And the first hit comes a few minutes in. The concept of playing loose with one’s sexuality and gender, and the idea that the same body can represent both feminine and masculine traits is something the society always failed to grasp. The film portrays not one, but five such people, who embody these concepts in every way.
“When I had my first interview with two of the drag queens, I was very hesitant. Since it was my first experience being the director and cinematographer both. But gradually, they made the environment so calm and friendly that I started enjoying the process. And it is a taboo because we have our minds made up. It’s just that, you have to open up, and then you’ll know, they are as normal as anyone.” Anmol recounted his experience in making the movie quite fondly. “Getting to know them, know their experiences first handed and how positive they are even after facing so many challenges and obstacles is truly inspiring.”
Every queen featured, expresses their love for the art, and the camera has captured that love, in it’s raw and pure state. The colours and the struggles are portrayed with the care they deserve. The film captures every moment- both of sadness and happiness- without lingering anywhere more than necessary. That balance is graceful, and is one of the factors that pulls you in.
Talking to a creator, who isn’t afraid to hit the sensitive spots, someone who is bold about the statements he wants to make, is always a pleasure. Here’s a director who still remembers the nervousness of that first shot, and the moment of ecstasy in the final shot. If he holds on to it, we can expect more daring and bolder works from him. Every great journey begins with a single step. And this is one in the right direction.
After all, the purpose of a creative mind isn’t to decorate the walls of a comfort zone or to play safe. It’s meant to break free, to be the thunderstorm of change. It’s almost time for another wave, and I feel it’s coming.