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IN CONVERSATION WITH KESHAV SURI AND MOHNISH MALHOTRA

— Jasmeen Dugal

Mohnish Malhotra, CEO, Silver Monkey Communications is at the forefront of LGBTQ activism — always busy organising the most rocking, inclusive parties so the community can connect in a safe environment. His personality on social media is strong, vivacious, sincere—and he's even more positive in person. Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group is bringing marginalised communities, into mainstream. The drag nights at his award-winning nightclub Kitty Su are wildly popular in Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi, while creating acceptance for queer through performance. So it's no wonder the community is waiting with bated breath for American drag performer Alaska Thunderfuck. His aim behind hosting such events is to make the nation Inclusive. Together, Mohnish Malhotra and Keshav Suri have transformed the LGBTQ landscape in the nation. In conversation with them on the eve of Kitty Su hosting Alaska Thunderfuck.

 

 

Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 is an International star. How did you conceive the idea of getting him down to Kitty Su and what was his response?

KESHAV SURI: I have been wanting to introduce performing arts into Kitty Su for a while. I am a huge fan of drag culture and probably the biggest fan of Alaska, ever! It started with Kitty Su sixth anniversary when I wanted to invite Alaska, but it did not materialise. So, I called Ru Paul’s Drag Race Season 7 winner Violet Chachki. After the over whelming response, I realized there is room and talent for a lot more in India. I have hired Indian talents like Maya the Drag Queen aka Alex Mathew and Rani Ko He Nor aka Sushant Digwikar, who now regularly perform at Kitty Su. And it is great that Alaska is coming now, the day when Delhi will be celebrating the 10th year of Pride. Being a huge fan of hers, it is a big moment for us. Alaska too is quite excited and looking forward to her trip to India.

 

How has the Indian LGBTQ community responded to this?

KESHAV SURI: Not only the community, people from mainstream also are excited and looking forward to it, which goes on to reiterate my belief that India is not as non-inclusive as people like to project. All my drag nights, be it by an Indian performer or International stars, have been a success.

 

The LGBTQ community seems to be growing pretty fast. What do you think it is about the kind of events you produce at Kitty Su that is so appealing?

KESHAV SURI: The community is not growing — they are being noticed now. Their voice is no longer going unheard. Ever since the launch of Kitty Su in 2011, it has been way ahead of its times. We host international DJs and artists, but what really tops the chart is the all-inclusive policy of the club. We also host special meets for differently-abled, have curated CU Next Thursday for the marginalised communities and now Kitty Su is gaining popularity for having introduced performing arts in this space. We have started a revolution by introducing drag culture in the country and creating opportunity for performance artists. It further enables people from or outside the community to understand gender identities. It is the all welcoming and discerning nature of Kitty Su that makes its events a success.

 

How do you feel such powerhouse nights at Kitty Su could help in shaping the LGBTQ community?

KESHAV SURI: I want to change the notion of India as a non-inclusive country worldwide by bringing all the marginalised communities into mainstream. The drag nights at Kitty Su are getting popular and bigger, creating an acceptance for queer through performance thereby, providing opportunities for others to perform. So, my aim behind hosting these events is simple, to make the country Inclusive.

 

Do you have responsibility as an LGBTQ activist?

MOHNISH MALHOTRA: Responsibility is to behave, which I have am learning of late. Ha!Ha! I try and be available and responsive as much as I can if somebody reaches out to me.

 

What advice do you have for young LGBTQ community people who don’t have a support system?

MOHNISH MALHOTRA: That depends on what kind of support we are talking about. There are quite a few resource groups, centres and helplines available in times of distress. There are safe spaces like Kitty Su, hosting regular events every Thursday for people to come together and reach out. Also, it is fairly easy to get in touch with activists or media folk through the Internet and social media.

 

Did you feel nervous unleashing that kind of event to a larger community that may or may not be LGBTQ-friendly? Have you ever been through such situations?

MOHNISH MALHOTRA: Well, not at all. If one can walk on the streets at the Pride march, anything is possible. Haters will hate. Drag is not mainstream. But that is the idea… to ask the uncomfortable question and change mindsets every day.

 

Do you have advice for anybody going to Pride for the first time?

MOHNISH MALHOTRA: It is always better if you have company, however, do not let that restrict you. If you are not out, there are always face masks available. Do not be scared to reach out. Someone is always willing to be there for you if you take a chance.
 

ALASKA THUNDERFUCK
Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group; Mohnish Malhotra, CEO, Silver Monkey Communications
 
ALASKA THUNDERFUCK
American drag performer Alaska ThunderFuck 2000
 
08-NOVEMBER-2017
 
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