‘We matched Madhuri’s steps when we were kids’

It’s a scene that unfolds at every party, event or marriage: the songs are raging item numbers of the moment, the moves are familiar and so are the costumes.

But this is not your average dance troupe swaying to Banno Tera Swagger . Meet the Pink Divas, a gender-bending group that will perform at the Bangalore Queer Film Festival 2016.

Manas, Varun, Pratik, Sagar, Saurav, Praveen, Harsh and Srinivas, all professionals who have been working in the city for years, form this group of “men who love to dance”.

PINK_DIVA.jpg

“The underlying current is to break the gender stereotype,” said Varun, a radiation safety engineer.

“It kind of disturbs a few people, it questions them. We have got a lot of criticism for being there on stage. Even on a pro-LGBT stage like BQFF, there are people with internalised homophobia, disturbed by seeing men dance like women.”

The group’s first performance was in 2011 during Bengaluru Pride Week. The members have changed over the years.

One of the ‘senior’ members of the group, Praveen, talks about the months of practice that goes before the main performance. “I have trained as a Bharatnatyam dancer, which has very defined roles for the naatak and the naatika . To be able to break that boundary is liberating.”

Software engineer Prateek, too, finds freedom in breaking the boundaries. “Whatever I cannot emote in public, I can bring out through dance.” Although he performed in school and college, he felt “boxed in” by what he was allowed to do as a male dancer. “It took me a while to get around the fact that by performing in this group, I could sway my hips like I did in the confines of my home.”

Do they see themselves as activists?

“There are people who identify with Pink Divas. We represent them. Others coexist and there needs to be a voice to bring them out, and we are that,” said Varun. For them, being called an activist is a ‘badge of honour’.

“One common streak running through our group is that as kids, we all danced in secret to Madhuri and Sridevi,” said Varun, which gets nods of agreement from everyone. “And being part of Pink Divas let’s us bring out our inner Madhuris.”

(Originally published in The Hindu. Credit for header image: Vinayak Das, Creative Commons license)

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