We were… I would say, a very actualized society, because we didn't condemn any sort of expression when it came to self-expression or expressing through art and culture.
This is what Sushant Divgikar, aka Rani Ko-HE-Nur, a TV-anchor, singer, model, pageant winner, and India's first Drag artist to feature in the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list, believes. The 29-year-old drag icon's stage name is, in fact, his attempt to associate himself with India's rich cultural and artistic heritage. He explains that he chose the word 'Kohinur' because the diamond got its existence from India, and 'Rani' i.e. queen. He did a bit of wordplay with the spelling to associate gender fluidity into the character that has become his alter-ego by using the pronoun 'he,' resulting in 'Ko-He-nur.'
Drag, to Sushant, is an art form that is very innate to Indian culture as he explains how cross-dressing has been a part of Indian tradition for time immemorial. In history, it exists in the courts of kings and queens, in mythology, as is represented in several folk tales, and is a form of expression akin to music, dance, painting, or any other art form.
Drag is not only for the LGBTQ community, or it's not that only a gay man can do drag. Drag is for everyone. It's an art.
The model-musician asserts, while explaining the importance of art in society, particularly for India, a nation whose contributions to the world in terms of art and culture are uniquely valuable. A dedicated performer, and a passionate artist, Sushant points out how important it is to stop attaching labels and creating barriers to creative expression. He believes that the beauty of art depends on its ability to be free of such confinements. Elaborating his statement, Sushant said that drag is for everyone just like music is for everyone. A gay musician's songs cannot be called gay music; it is just music; he points out. Through his drag art, Sushant hopes to bring people closer to the Indian culture and heritage.
Talking about his stage persona, Sushant says, "I love it when they get riled up. I love it when they get uncomfortable. Because if your heteronormativity is so fragile, then I absolutely love tickling it."
He takes a moment to breathe in a smile, thinking about the scenario, and explains how Rani Ko-HE-Nur challenges all sorts of stereotypes and represents women. He explains that Rani is entirely about representing womanhood and the essence of being a woman. Talking about his performances, he points out that while maintaining Rani's individuality, he has performed in different costumes representing diverse cultures through which womanhood is portrayed. Through Rani, Sushant brings out art that is fluid, and Rani empowers him with the ability to depict the several shades of being a woman. The more than four hundred thousand Instagram followers of Sushant bear testimony to his success in establishing and popularizing this fluidity.
My country is the most beautiful country in the world. I'll tell you that. But some of the things in my country have gone for a toss.
Sushant points out the repressive nature that society has adapted over time. He believes that this needs to be changed and that change can come through conversation, engagement, and conditioning. He rightly points out that a kid is not born homophobic, racist, or casteist; it is a societal mindset that Sushant believes needs to change for the better. The television anchor declares how nobody fills up a form to enroll themselves in the LGBTQIA+ community. He feels that the queer community has become a community precisely because they have been sidelined.
Sushant is fortunate to be blessed with talent, and his hard work shaping it has earned him a platform where he can influence thousands of people in trying to create a less judgemental and more accepting environment. The greatest supporter in his journey has been his mother, Bharati Divgikar, whose will and kindness he considers unparalleled. Lately, he hasn't been able to provide much time towards helping his mother, who runs a non-profit supporting underprivileged children in Kolkata, due to his various other engagements. Still, he said that he always stands beside her through everything. Presently, Sushant hopes for things to get better soon to focus on furthering his professional career.
I definitely will be concentrating on my music. I want to come out with something that is spectacular. That is when you see it, you don't want to miss it.
Sushant said, adding, "As an artist, because I have grappled with acting, singing, modeling, and everything, I don't want to stop doing anything. I want to do it all."