Posted by Ambika Patpatia on 7 September, 2021
Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals
This is the month we celebrate Freedom in India. Our Independence Day. The day which commemorates our freedom from oppression under a foreign rule. To me, the day also stands for freedom in every sense – the freedom for individuals to be who they are, the freedom of self-expression. We are a land of diverse people, cultures – and yet, when the question of orientation arises – we are a long way away from freedom. So, when I heard of this hit series, which not just embraces, but celebrates this freedom of orientation and identity, I was drawn to try it. And what I saw, makes me recommend the show to you – Pose, which is streaming on Netflix. Pose is an American drama television series about New York City's African-American and Latino LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming drag ball culture scene from the 1980s onwards. The show features dancers and models, who compete for trophies and recognition in this underground culture and support one another.
India is known as a traditional and conservative country – but what may surprise most is that drag has been part of India’s history and culture. From folk dances and theatre – where men dressed up as women to the royal courts of emperors – where eunuchs played important roles; drag has been present around us here too, throughout history. However, beginning perhaps with the British imposition of Section 377, over the years the freedom of orientation has become something to be shunned, hidden, denied. So watching a show which not just explores but actually celebrates the lives of drag queens with such panache, I was addicted quite soon. It is not just about the glitz and glamour, the pomp, pageantry and celebration – the show is very much about the real-life struggles of the ultra-confident drag queens. That confidence, one learns, is very hard won. From the lack of social acceptance to HIV, the struggles are painfully real. Even when the laws of the land are on their side, the hypocrisy of society – perhaps born of generations of ‘indoctrination’ on what is ‘normal’ – shackles this community and places too many barriers in their way.
Watch Pose to see how a sensitive topic and a vulnerable community can be approached and treated with respect. You may be surprised at the sophistication with which topics like AIDS, transphobia, racism and sexism are treated on the show – alongwith the glitz and glamour. From the bright lights of the runways to the dark shadows of life – the show has the whole range. A charismatic dance-off between appearance and reality, in which both sides are equally matched.
So while we celebrate freedom this month, I recommend this show to appreciate that freedom means different things to different people. But, in all it’s forms, freedom is essential. As one Indian drag artist Sheena Khalid once said, “Masculinity and femininity is not owned by anybody, that’s up for grabs”