Colours of Courage: Sushant Divgikar, aka Rani Ko-HE-Nur, shares his experiences with drag as an art form
Sushant Divgikar, aka Rani Ko-HE-Nur, shares discovering their voice and experimenting with drag as an art form.
Sushant Divgiker wears many hats as a drag queen, psychologist, actor, model, and singer. They were crowned Mr Gay India 2014 and is well-known for their outspoken support for the LGBTQIA community. Sushant, who was born and raised in Mumbai's outskirts, began his career with youth television channels and quickly built a niche for himself with his vibrant social media presence and varied opinions.
“Growing up we have been bullied, hit, touched at places we shouldn’t have been, abused. At this point in life, I still get called names, so imagine somebody from a smaller town. What must be happening to them?” Sushant confesses that even as a kid, he knew how to protect himself. He’d strike anybody who said something unparliamentary to him as a form of self-defense. Unfortunately, there are still children who are unable to protect themselves, and he wishes to encourage them to go out and seek assistance.
Speaking of how trans people are perceived in society, Sushant says, “Everybody thinks we are all standing on the streets to sell our bodies or to beg. This is what you've seen in the movies by far. Maybe now you must have seen 1 or 2 movies with better representation that also not with a trans person. But people why do they always think that we are only always on the streets or we are only selling our bodies or we’re only begging. Because it's been conditioned for us to believe.
Sushant urges all parents to accept their children as is, “When people say you know it's very difficult for parents to understand, it shouldn't be, because you're their child, you're not their straight child or gay child or male child or transgender child. You're their child first and everything else should come later and that makes you a good parent. And they didn't choose to be born to you, you chose one day that you wanted to make a baby and now that's the baby you need to deal with it, that's called adulting,” he adds.
“My parents have been absolutely amazing, like my mom comes with me everywhere and my dad will always ask me where I'm going and this and that,” begins Sushant, explaining that his parents brought him up to the best of their capabilities.
Sushant admits that he’s encountered countless obstacles in his career due to his sexual identity, however, he hasn’t let it stop him. Divgikar competed as a drag queen in the country's singing competition, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which aired on national television in 2018 — the same year India's Supreme Court overturned the Section 377 statute, which criminalised homosexuality. He confesses, “Rani Ko-HE-nur was born in a nightclub, in Kitty Su and was born because the owner of the hotel who is now my drag mother.”
“They called me one day and said I've heard that you performed very well and you should come. I was like ‘Theek hai. Paise mil rahe hai na? It’s not just exposure na.. I'm getting money?’ He said ya ya please come you please raise the invoice.” It was after that show that Sushant’s personality gained recognition and acclaim.
Rani-Ko-HE-Nur came to be after Sushant was offered a drag show with one of the world's most famous drag queens. When they did that show, they saw many people moved to tears by their singing and acting, and they discovered there is a lot more to his drag image than meets the eye. It's not only about the cosmetics, hair, and gown. They symbolise so much more than merely drag performance art. “People on social media started saying we’re waiting. I was like now I have to do something…ab drag queen ho to rani ho…”
“Rani means queen Wahi bar me naachne wali aaj aapke desh ko represent karegi antarashtriya sthal pe. So never look down on somebody where they come from?” he states with confidence.
Speaking of people built him up with their lessons and advice, Sushant says, “I’m grateful to my mentors, who have held my hand through this journey and told me that it doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, a guy, a woman, or transgender; you're creative, and that's all that matters. He is quite pleased of the fact that he was able to achieve success because he believed in himself and did not allow rejection to deter him.
As an eclectic performance artist, Sushant aspires to advance art without boundaries. It is his hope that people stop focusing on gender, but shift focus to people’s artistic ability.