Theatre

Mayamma rocks the city

It was Saturday night fever at Lamakaan as ‘Mayamma’ entered the scene with the number ‘ Endaro Mahaanubhavulu’ from the recent movie Bhale Bhale Magaadivoy.

As the audience sat glued to their seats, drag queen Mayamma casts her spell with a riveting performance. She is joined by exotic belly dancer Lexi dancing the night away in high heels. ‘An evening with Mayamma and more’ organised by Queer Collective India’s Hyderabad chapter showcased the queer talent with a lot of spirit and spunk. The evening also saw four skits by Hyderabad-based artistes and a stand-up comedy show by Mumbai-based Naveen Noronha.

A few hours before the show, over hot chai and samosas, Alex Mathew and Alex Victor share their stories, their journey in transforming into Mayamma and Lexi respectively. “I am a man on the street and woman on stage,” declares Alex Mathew. He was a singer and theatre actor who felt stagnated as a performer. “I even performed in Lamakaan in 2012. I was seeking inspiration and doing research to be a performer with a difference,” he states. That’s when his focus shifted to being a drag performer. Creating a character, being like a woman and singing and acting like a woman on stage followed and Mayamma was born; a spirited woman looking luminous in her Kerala saris, complete with a Mallu accent.

Alex Victor was 15 when his friend threw a challenge about male belly dancers. “He knew that I could take up the challenge. I asked him to give me some time and I met the expectation,” smiles Alex. He picked up belly dancing in 2008.

“There is a lot of stigma about male belly dancing. It is a rich art but there is a bad belief about people who do belly dancing. I wanted to the break the assumption,” states Alex, who quit his MNC job and came back to dancing. He also recalls how his father, who had once opposed to belly dancing realised his potential. “Two months before he passed away, he came to me and asked me to take it up. He was 60-plus and had a bad back but was trying to dance. I later understood that he was trying to encourage me,” he recollects.

The distinct feature is the way he moves gracefully on his high heels. “The high heels craze was brought in by choreographer Yanis Marshall,” points out Romal Singh of Queer Arts Movement India and elaborates, “When you see Alex (Victor) on stage, he transforms into a dancer oozing with attitude; he represents a character.”

“We wanted to bring into Hyderabad the queer culture that Bengaluru and Mumbai have,” say Sachin and Priyank of Queer Collective India-Hyderabad chapter. “The spotlight is always on protests and fighting for rights. We want to organise events for the community through arts and handicrafts.” Romal adds the focus is on celebrating the community. “We wanted to move beyond the health-based HIV movement and celebrate and reach out to the community. We are proud of the community and want to build this movement of artists and contribute to the community,” he adds.

Alex says Mayamma helps him in reaching out to many young kuttis and kuttans. “I pass on the message and tell things like a story. Mayamma brought me out of the closet.”


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Printable version | Jul 27, 2021 5:48:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/an-evening-with-mayamma-and-more-was-a-show-with-spirit-and-spunk/article7698405.ece

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