Sushant Divgikar describes himself as eclectic, and he is not wrong. Trained in eight forms of dance from Bharatanatyam to Salsa, three forms of martial arts, he is also a drag artiste and industrial psychologist, who was titled Mr Gay World India in 2014.
Sushant was also the first drag artiste from India to ever feature on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list. Known by his drag name Rani Ko-HE-Nur, Divgikar recently he forayed into the world of music and released his pop single, ‘Diamond’. Metrolife caught up with him to find out about his musical career, drag personality and more.
Tell us more about your latest release, ‘Diamond’.
I have been making appearances on TV and movies for a while now, but music has been my first love. As fun as it is to sing songs by people who inspired me — female voices from the 60s to 80s from Usha Uthup and Alisha Chinai to Aretha Franklin — I wanted to create something of my won. At this moment in time, we are surviving a pandemic! We are all just like diamonds that have to go through so much to become one. The song celebrates that. I involved real people and their stories in the video. I hope it inspires people to untag themselves from the labels that have been thrust on them.
Where do you hope your musical journey will take you?
I want to work towards propagating the idea of art without barriers. We are always labelling people. Why does it matter if they are a “dusky model” or a “queer artiste”? Art is art. Those tags are not anyone’s business. All that matters is if they have the talent.
Tell us more about your drag personality, Rani-Ko-HE-Nur. What was the inspiration behind her?
She is the queen; the queen supreme. The British might have managed to flee away with one Kohinoor, but the real one is still here. The way the name has been broken down is also important. ‘HE’ refers to the fact that while its a queen, there is a boy in there. I am inspired by powerful women, especially the ones who fight for the voiceless. My biggest inspiration is my mom. And I want to represent them in diverse forms, so I perform in lehenga and saree and even in a bikini.
How does India’s drag culture fare compared to the West?
India is great, but not all Indians are not at a level where they can boast about being worldly. We used to an extremely diverse nation that celebrated it. Drag is not new to India, but colonialism ruined our mindset. But its also time to take some blame on ourselves, because we have let it continue. Why are we so shy to embrace our culture? I have been able to put Indian drag on an international platform, but why aren’t we celebrated here at home?
What do you feel about the portrayal of LGBTQIA+ in mainstream media?
People keep saying we have become so open, but what are we basing this on? A handful shows does not make our media inclusive. We don’t have to circle a show around a queer person, but where are shows with normal queer characters that have normal relationships like we do in our daily life.
How many memorable queer characters have we created? Arjun Mathur’s character in ‘Made in Heaven’, Sanjay Suri in ‘My Brother Nikhil’, Nandita Das in ‘Fire’ and Kubra Sait in ‘Sacred Games’. Is four reference points in two and a half decades something to be proud of? But, at the same time, there is a much stronger conversation on these topics on public platforms and that is great.
Do you experience a lot of trolling on social media? Are the instances more online than offline?
I was 16 when I started going for auditions. I am very thickskinned now. I have heard so much and I have learnt to shut it out. It is far easier to say something nasty online. In real life, I am 6 ft 2’’ and when I wear heels, I look big. So people won’t say much to my face. If they do, I will give it back; I will systematically deconstruct them to show them that they are worthless.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I am working on creating more music. I have 12-13 more releases coming up, of which three are ready to be recorded. These are across genres from soft rock and pop to Sufi and even regional music. I plan to start creating content for YouTube. But more importantly, I plan to open House of Kohinoor, space to train and support younger drag queens. I want to help people who don’t have the privilege of living their life freely. I was lucky to have two parents who loved me and supported me in whatever I did, and I want to put the time to make a change for those who don’t have that. I would just request creators, be it film or music, or anything else, to include more queer and diverse people in their projects.