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During one of their meetings, members of the Bengaluru-based social group for the queer, We're Here and Queer, were brainstorming on what they'd like to contribute to the upcoming Queer Pride: Bangalore 2012 festival. Discussion veered to a recent photo project by photographer Indu Antony, titled Bitch Please!, which had queer men dressed in drag. The women then realised that a role reversal would make for an exciting as well as a unique project.
"All of us ran with the idea of dressing up as a man. We then decided that by adopting various personae from popular culture, the project will become far more accessible and fun," recounts Rohini Venkatesh Malur, the group's facilitator. The idea of doing it as a calendar instead of a photo exhibition ensured that the audience's association with it wouldn't end with one viewing. The project was then titled "MAN i FEST".
In all, there are photographs of 13 girls in drag — one on the cover while each of the remaining adorn the page dedicated to a different month of the year. Some of the characters that made it to the final list include Tom Cruise's Maverick in Top Gun, Quick Gun Murugun, Chulbul Pandey of Dabangg, Zorro, Superman and Alex — the coconut seller in Channel V's show Lola Kutty.
Earlier, the team planned to shoot in Antony's studio, but they soon realised that taking it outdoors to a setting suitable to each get-up would do justice to the photographs. However, Antony had other concerns. "Crowds can gather in such situations and people can get rowdy with girls, especially in such get-ups," she explains. Eventually, Antony relented and they spent a few days scouting for locations and brought on board a make-up artist who could facilitate the transformation. "The idea of doing drag was exciting for each of us, especially since the sexuality of a man is quite close to where we find ourselves. This, therefore, was an opportunity to play it out too," explains Vidya Pai, who donned a uniform and drove a white gypsy to enact Chulbul Pandey.
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