drag queens


With the tagline of ‘Dance, drama and desire’, Gulabi Aaina or ‘The Pink Mirror’ is India’s first film with focus on drag queens. The film was banned in India but went on to be a part of multiple film festivals abroad.   Gulabi Aaina or The Pink Mirror is a 35-minute short film directed by Sridhar Rangayan. The film is Rangayan’s first short film and explores the story of two drag queens (Shibbo and Bibbo), their ‘personal boy’ Mandy and a budding young actor called Samir. The film was set to release in India in 2003 but was banned by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) on grounds of being ‘too vulgar for the mainstream audience’. The film begins with a shot of Bibbo as a Mughal era courtesan. We see the playfulness in her eyes and the mischief in her smirk. We are soon introduced to Shabbo who is seen fretting after a face mask recipe goes wrong. The first sign of the relationship between the two leads is shown in Bibbo’s entrance to the house where we’re also introduced to Mandy, Bibbo’s ‘personal boy’. Mandy is a shy gay teen who understands very little Hindi. After a few scenes, we are introduced to Samir, Shabbo’s ‘driver’. What progresses from that point is almost a playful fight between the two drag queens and Mandy over Samir’s attention. The film cannot simply be out under the genre of comedy, in its 35-minute run time of over the top singing, colour and flamboyance, it subverts definitions of genre the same way the protagonists subvert the heteronormative definitions of gender and sexuality. Shabbo and Bibbo share a mother-daughter relationship, their solidarity and love for each other remains omnipresent in the film. Solidarities would be the central theme of the film. In the queer household, solidarity goes beyond acceptance of identity but extends to comfort and sacrifices in the time of distress. The pink mirror on Shabbo’s boudoir is a witness to her and Bibbo’s relationship, it’s where they laugh, cry, dress up and perform. The film also emphasises on queer desire with Samir’s character. He is young, attractive and seemingly unattainable. The second half of the film is filled with comical attempts to seduce him. The drama and the cinematography of the film takes one back to the soap operas of the 90s and the early 2000s. The acting isn’t perfect, in some places it is obvious that the cast is new to being in front of the camera. In many parts, the sassiness of the characters comes off as virulentness. The HIV angle to Bibbo’s story seemed unnecessary. The singing sequences could be way shorter and simply see over dramatic but these flaws aside, one cannot deny that The Pink Mirror was a film way ahead of its time, labelled as ‘vulgar’ and ‘obscene’, the film transcends those definitions and becomes a testament and an urban Indian outlook to drag queens and gays.    Image Credits: Netflix   Jaishree Kumar [email protected]]]>