Nov 20, 2014
Oct 6, 2010
www.queenharish.com is now live and entertaining, it's a great new cosmetic experience like playing around with a new make up kit on a completely improved customised stage i love to dance on.
For now i will keep this blogspot on but won't post anymore here, please follow me in this new space!
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 1:05 PM
Sep 5, 2010
Queen Harish at India Got Talent Khoj 2 - September 4th 2010
Special Thanks to Veronica "Veve" de Souza and to all my fans from India and all my friends from Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, Mumbai and Gujarat for their votes!
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 12:03 PM
Sep 2, 2010
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 12:16 PM
Aug 29, 2010
A silicon breast is a weapon of mass seduction. And two will help you find your target. Harish Kumar gently filled his bustier top with one each; he was close to the end of his routine. One that had begun an hour ago by sitting with his chrome make-up box, mixing powders and paints and applying colours on the canvas that is his face. Kryolan, MAC, Lakme — no expense spared to ensure that the hard lines of his nose and jaw were softened, made feminine. He squeezed into a heavy red-and-gold ghagra, slipped on Rajasthani bangles that went up till his shoulders, adjusted his wig and stepped into his Salvatore Ferragamo pumps. In the mirror, we saw a slim, taut-waisted woman, with heavy-lidded eyes and high breasts. Kumar was now Queen Harish and she was ready for the kill. Continue reading on Indian Express
A man who slips into the gait of a woman, a dancer in drag who is father of two. In the gallis of Jaisalmer and on a stage in Seoul, Harish Kumar turns into a diva that men desire. Where the lines blur, there begins the incredible double life of Queen Harish.
A silicon breast is a weapon of mass seduction. And two will help you find your target. Harish Kumar gently filled his bustier top with one each; he was close to the end of his routine. One that had begun an hour ago by sitting with his chrome make-up box, mixing powders and paints and applying colours on the canvas that is his face. Kryolan, MAC, Lakme — no expense spared to ensure that the hard lines of his nose and jaw were softened, made feminine. He squeezed into a heavy red-and-gold ghagra, slipped on Rajasthani bangles that went up till his shoulders, adjusted his wig and stepped into his Salvatore Ferragamo pumps. In the mirror, we saw a slim, taut-waisted woman, with heavy-lidded eyes and high breasts. Kumar was now Queen Harish and she was ready for the kill.
Continue reading on Indian Express
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 11:46 AM
Aug 16, 2010
Dec 22, 2009
INDIA, a show designed by the world's most spectacular showmaker, Franco Dragone Entertainment ( Cirque du Soleil, Celine Dion, Le Reve at Wynn Las Vegas ... ).
Here are a few reports from the local German TV
And an exclusive video from the
beginning of the rehearsals several months ago
before the premiere:
The Amazing photo serie by Dancer specialist photograph extraordinaire Andre Elbing:
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 3:16 PM
Dec 14, 2009
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 2:27 PM
Jul 5, 2009
Apr 21, 2009
Major performances will happen there:
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 2:34 PM
Mar 30, 2009
Follow my tour schedule and learn from me wherever in the world
Mar 22, 2009
It’s a sight rarely seen in an Indian show — a 27-year-old cross-dressing belly dancer walking down the ramp in a girly strapless pink gown, hunching his broad shoulders like a seasoned model. When Harish Kumar aka Queen Harish from the fabulous ruins of Jaisalmer took a bow with designer Hemant Sagar and socialite Priya Chatwal, the audience erupted into an ecstatic applause. While some praised the mischievous and cheeky idea by designer duo Lecoanet-Hemant, critics and fashionistas alike twittered about the simmering element of homosexuality running through the show. Even designer Rohit Bal, watching from the sidelines, cracked into a smile. “I wasn’t intimidated in the least. I know how to handle myself,” gushed Queen Harish, blinking at the television cameras surrounding him. He added with a smile, “I taught the models some belly dancing moves backstage.” Queen Harish has performed as a belly dancer all over the world. Lecoanet-Hemant’s show offered distinct looks, and told a story with a photographer-stylist Francois Matthys walking the ramp, and even Sagar’s factory caretaker Mohan, in a bellboy uniform, juggling five bags, took a shy turn. Sagar himself swaggered down with ease.The creations included a monsoon coat fashioned out of recycled plastic and a decadent Maharaja look, with some fantastically embroidered jackets. Sagar, however, looked chic in a very basic black suit. When asked whether he was attempting to mainstream homosexuality with a male belly dancer on centre stage at his show, Sagar retorted tersely, “Every sex is part of the world. If you don’t want to see reality, then close your eyes.
It’s a sight rarely seen in an Indian show — a 27-year-old cross-dressing belly dancer walking down the ramp in a girly strapless pink gown, hunching his broad shoulders like a seasoned model. When Harish Kumar aka Queen Harish from the fabulous ruins of Jaisalmer took a bow with designer Hemant Sagar and socialite Priya Chatwal, the audience erupted into an ecstatic applause.
While some praised the mischievous and cheeky idea by designer duo Lecoanet-Hemant, critics and fashionistas alike twittered about the simmering element of homosexuality running through the show. Even designer Rohit Bal, watching from the sidelines, cracked into a smile. “I wasn’t intimidated in the least. I know how to handle myself,” gushed Queen Harish, blinking at the television cameras surrounding him. He added with a smile, “I taught the models some belly dancing moves backstage.” Queen Harish has performed as a belly dancer all over the world.
Lecoanet-Hemant’s show offered distinct looks, and told a story with a photographer-stylist Francois Matthys walking the ramp, and even Sagar’s factory caretaker Mohan, in a bellboy uniform, juggling five bags, took a shy turn. Sagar himself swaggered down with ease.The creations included a monsoon coat fashioned out of recycled plastic and a decadent Maharaja look, with some fantastically embroidered jackets. Sagar, however, looked chic in a very basic black suit. When asked whether he was attempting to mainstream homosexuality with a male belly dancer on centre stage at his show, Sagar retorted tersely, “Every sex is part of the world. If you don’t want to see reality, then close your eyes.
Jan 18, 2009
Since i came back from the October Asian tour it was wedding season in India so i traveled across the country to perform at many private events.
I am very grateful to all the dancers who traveled all the way from Japan, Europe and US to my home in Jaisalmer to become my students and experience my dance in the desert.
Now it is touring time again : Cheb i Sabbah is coming to Jaipur and invite me and Colleena to perform with him, Veve the most famous Brazilian Bellydancer from India has decided to launch a Queen Harish monthly workshop and event in Bombay and a very expected event is my come back to Brussels after 6 years to teach and perform at Raqs Congress.
January 21 : with Cheb i Sabbah . Jaipur Litterature Festival . opening event
January 25 : with Cheb i Sabbah . Jaipur Litterature Festival . closing event
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 6:27 PM
Sep 9, 2008
Starting October 1st, Queen Harish will be touring in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Singapore.
On this tour Queen Harish will teach and perform at The World Bellydancer Championship in Seoul, South Korea, Tania Luiz' Studio in Osaka, Japan, at Mishaal' Studio in Tokyo and at Rumpuree Studio in Bangkok.
Queen Harish will be performing several solo shows but most importantly will be the guest dancer to Fanfare Ciocarlia, the Gypsy Brass Band from Romania, featured in the film Gypsy Caravan, they are the greatest influence to todays'fashion for Balkan Beats and Queen Harish will be dancing on all dates of their Japanese tour produced by Plankton.
October 1 : World Bellydance Championship - Seoul - South Korea / info
October 2 : World Bellydance Championship - Seoul - South Korea / info
October 3 : World Bellydance Championship - Seoul - South Korea / info
October 4 : Dance Workshop - Kobe - Japan / info
October 5 : Dance workshop - Osaka - Japan / info
October 8 : Hyogo - Hyogo Hall with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 9 : Nagoya - Club Quatro with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 10 : Nagoya - Dance workshop / info : khalidakaori AT gmail DOT com
October 11 : Tokyo - Mitaka Civic Hall with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 12 : Yokosuka - Art Center with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 13 : Iwaki - ? - with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 16 : Tokyo - Club Quatro with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 18 : Kyoto - Biwako Hall with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 19 : Matsumoto - Art Center with Fanfare Ciocarlia / info
October 20 : Tokyo - Workshop at Mishaal / info
October 25 : Tokyo - Workshop at Mishaal / info
October 26 : Tokyo - Workshop and Show at Mishaal / info
October 27 : Tokyo - Workshop at Mishaal / info
October 31 : Bangkok - Halloween Event at Dream BKK
November 1 : Bangkok - Workshop at Rumpuree / info
November 2 : Bangkok - Workshop at Rumpuree / info
In Osaka sponsored by Tania & Sefa :
On Tour with Fanfare Ciocarlia:
Already outside the venue, before the start, I could recognise the bellydancers among the concertgoers immediately. Then I simply followed a girl in melodia pants to the elevator. Upstairs I met more of those- with a very different attitude from everyone else in the waiting queues. Ethnic clothes, long hair, often piled into fantastic hair dos on top of the head, and all those Japanese dancers way more expressive and individualistic than the rest of the crowd... Continue Reading
Workshop in Nagoya :
Show & 3 days of Workshop at Mishaal in Tokyo :
Today we had a workshop on Rajasthani dance with Queen Harish! At Mishaal's place, and the hall was full. Wow, this was so much fun. I have been studying the history of the dances backwards, starting with Argentine Tango, and then going back to one of it's roots, flamenco, and then on to bellydance. And now, finally, the roots of bellydance- gypsy dance in Rajasthan! I was fascinated. One of the first things Harish showed us were the hand movements. Bending the hand at the wrist and then letting it circle slowly and gracefully while turning out the elbow and and moving the arm, like a snake- exactly the same movements I learned about 5 years ago in Sevilla, at Taller flamenco! Continue reading ...
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 12:32 PM
Queen Harish has ben invited to perform and teach workshops at Raqs Congress in Brussels, Belgium, next February 6, 7, 8 alongside the masters of Bellydance such as Raqia Hassan, Randa Kamel ... The festival has a very impressive line - up and is a must to attend !!
In the meantime Queen Harish is working on the choreography of her very first Bellydance piece, obviously a fusion performance of Oriental, Rajasthani and Bollywood into a new and inspiring form of Bellydance...
Note that Queen Harish has already danced for so much different musicians and Djs and all their world of musics but here is the first time Queen Harish selects a non Indian song for his own's solo show!!
if the video does not load, please watch it from here
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 12:13 PM
Jul 22, 2008
photo by Aaron Dressin
Queen Harish dances in drag
Sandip Roy, Special to The Chronicle
Monday, July 21, 2008"I like to copy the Bollywood actresses," Queen Harish says with a chuckle. "But not the new kinds with the very short, short clothes." She prefers the colorful, traditional full skirts of her native Rajasthan. After being featured in the musical documentary "When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan," Indian drag sensation Queen Harish has become quite the jet-setter. New York, London, Barcelona, Tokyo - "the dancing, whirling, desert drag queen," as she calls herself, is everywhere, flying in for celebrity weddings, giant outdoor concerts and gay parties.
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 12:38 PM
Jul 21, 2008
I am on the west coast since 2 weeks, and i am leaving Los Angeles for Seattle today. I had a fabulous time in Los Angeles!! Performing with Cheb i Sabbah at Getty Center, in a loft at Donovan, teaching workshops with Jenna and walking on the wild side with Princesss Farhana !!!!
I cant wait to come back !!!!
First city in California I arrive in San Diego, invited by Danyavaad, a dance and music collective with dancers Leilainia and her very talented sister on the fronthead. They have a wonderful entertainment vision and we look look forward to explore it further very soon!!
Before reaching California, i stopped for some days in the small city of Portales in New Mexico, invited by Yolanda Del Rio who is bringing world dances and cultures in this community. It was lovely!!
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 2:54 AM
Jul 1, 2008
Ultra Party & Performance at Tribal Dance Festival in Brooklyn organised by Trisha McBride and Joy.
I love the American Bellydancers community because they love me too!
My first workshop in NYC at Bellyqueens, sponsored by Kaeshi:
God is with me!
I met with Rupa & The April Fishes at Drom Gypsy Club and she invited me to perform at her show at Central Park Summer Stage!!
My last performance on this stage was back in 1999...
I cant believe what happened to me while performing at the Post Pride Parade event "Color Me Queer", a Desilicious Sholay event.
If the video does not load ( ?? ) please watch it from here
I still miss photos of the performance at Jebon, please send me!
and if any better photos please send also!!
Now i will travel to New Mexico, California, and Seattle.
More photos very soon on this blog!
See you during the tour!!
Consult my tour list in the rightside column to catch up with me!
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 6:49 PM
Jun 10, 2008
Tour Schedule in the column on the right.
On this solo tour, i will be performing my Cabaret performance , it includes Haremly Mujra, Rajasthani Gipsy and Bollywood impros.
i will also conduct workshops of Rajasthani , Bollywood and Mujra dances.
Also, I will be dancing for :
Cheb i Sabbah
Rupa & The April Fishes
i am very honoured to have been invited on this tour to conduct, a workshop at cult Fat Chance BellyDance studio in San Francisco, to close the New York Pride at Desicilicious postParade event, to be part of Cheb i Sabbah's 1002 nights collective for a unique show at Los Angeles Getty Center and to dance with Rupa & The April Fishes on the Summer Stage of NYC Central Park!
Some press is starting to be out , read Dance San Diego
The tour schedule is in the column on your right, there are still some days off where you can invite me to your city, contact me at queenDOTharishATgmailDOTcom
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 5:28 PM
Apr 29, 2008
Colleena & me have a Bellywood project cooking, we have worked and performed together several times this season in Rajasthan and are planning to produce a duo show to be launched early 2009.
Discover the introduction of our duo project on this new blog
For now Colleena has left Pushkar for the summer, she is touring in Europe and North America.
I am also taking a leave to the United States from June 15th till about July 31st. to reconnect with the peoples and I am looking forwards to extend this tour and wait for your calls ( queen DOT harish AT gmail DOT com ) to participate in projects over there in North America.
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 10:21 AM
Apr 28, 2008
If the video does not load ( ?? ) please watch it from here
My debut as a lead dancer in Taliwood (South Indian Bollywood) film : "Appudappudu".
In this scene happening during Holi festival, i do a flirt dance with the hero, he wants to divorce his wife... and she keeps an angry eye on me ...
I have my face behind my veil during the entire dance but watch out for the surprise, just at the end!
If the video does not load ( ?? ) please watch it from here
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 9:30 PM
Feb 11, 2008
Anne Garde at Les Galleries Lafayette in Paris,
where the century-old, high end department store
Galeries Lafayette creates India
through an eclectic array of products services, exhibition and entertainment.
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 1:43 PM
Dec 15, 2007
Queen H a r i s h has a feature in SX News the leading gay and lesbian newspaper in
“I think Queen Harish is my alter ego – drag is in my blood, and while I am dressed as her I can let loose all my greatest passions, flirtations and wild behaviour!” she says on the eve of her first visit to
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 10:57 PM
Queen Harish features in the film "Gypsy Caravan".
A Buena Vista Social Club for Gypsy Music, and also the chance to discover both 'Mr Harish Kumar' at home and Queen Harish on stage, make up sessions, interviews, promenade in Jaisalmer city, in the desert ... and amazing shots of her fantastic dance, captured while she was dancing for MAharaja, the Rajasthani music group, during the Gypsy Caravan North American tour, back in 2001.
The film is now distributed worldwide, try catching it in a theater near you, and for here is a little raw footage :
If the video does not load, please watch it from here
For the film release in Japan, the distributor had the wonderful idea to have me and my make-up skills on the poster ... very good !!
The film opens in Japanese theaters on January 12th !!!
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 10:38 PM
Queen Harish feels nostalgic of a time she has never lived ... Nevertheless, her 21st century lifestyle reflects it, as much as these quotes by William Dalrymple in "The City of Djinns".
The trouble was that, unlike most other periods of
The Muraqqa' is a wonderfully gossipy account of
For all its humiliating decline, khan saw
"Every Thursday the courtyard of the Dargah is so full of visitors that it is difficult even to approach the place and touch it,' he writes. 'Pilgrims and ascetics come from countries and cities far and near to seek the fulfillment of their desires."
But when Khan goes on to describe the crowds a little more closely, this picture of a prayerful pilgrimage undergoes something of a transformation: "On seeing beautiful women carrying in their hands porcelain bottles of perfume, the crowds become uncontrollable …the ecstatic people move around as though being swept into a whirlpool…gradually the singers gather and the Mehfil (gathering) becomes gay. Men and beautiful women also join in. Pleasure seekers retire to the corners and find the privacy to enjoy their desired company."
If this sort of thing could take place at the most sacred shrine in
(At night) chandeliers of all kinds are hung so that the place dazzles like sunlight and overshadows the moon.
Hand in hand, the lovers roam the streets while (outside) the drunken and the debauched revel in all kinds of perversities. Group of windsome lads violate the faith of the believers with acts which are sufficient to shake the very roots of piety. There are beautiful faces as far as the eye can see. All around prevails a world of impiety and immorality. Both nobles and plebians quench the thirst of their lust here.
Having described the main shrines and Sufi festivals and mystics, khan goes on to list the city's secular personalities: the nobles, the musicians and the great femmes fatales. These figures range from Azam Khan, 'one of the chief nobles of the Empire' whose principal claim to fame is his vast harem and his insatiable appetites ('a pederast, he is also found of beautiful girls…whenever he is informed of the availability of a lad or a fine wench he endeavours to be the buyer'); through Taqi, 'one of the famous eunuchs and the ringleader of the conjurors of Hindustan' ('his house is the abode of delicate beauties, some as fair as the dawn while others are as dark as volatile passion'); to the great musicians such as the blind drummer Shah Nawaz who played his own stomach as if it was a tabla drum, or the disgusting Surkhi, a glutton who 'snorred and expectorated loudly' but whose horrible habits were overlooked by his hosts because of the unique beauty of his voice ('as melodious as a nightingale'), his brilliant mimicry and his ready wit.
Best of all were the dancers and courtesans –beautiful women like Ad Begum whose speciality was to appear naked at parties, but so cleverly painted that no one noticed:'she decorates her legs with beautiful drawnings in the style of pyjamas instead of actually wearing them; in place of the cuffs she draws flowers and petals in ink exactly as found in the finest cloth of Rum.'.
The most famous of the courteseans was Nur Bai, whose popularity was such that everynight the elephants of the great amirs completely blocked the narrow lanes outside her house.
Even the greatest nobles could only gain admittance by sending in presents of large sum of money: 'whosoever gets enamoured of her gets sucked into the whirlpool of her demands,' writes Dargah Quli Khan, 'and brings ruin upon himself and his house.
Many people have become paupers after their association with her but the pleasure of her company can only be had as long as one is in possession of riches to bestow on her.' Meeting Nur Bai was clearly one of the highlights of Khan's visit to
But if it was the courteseans that captured Dargah Quli Khan's imagination, his real admiration was reserved to the
'Although Hazeen (a Persian Sufi) leads a life of purity and charm, there is always a large crowd gathered in his house,' wrote Khan. 'In the evening, the courtyard of his house is swept and sprinkled with rosewater and colourful carpets are spread out on a raised platform. The great poets then start the recitation of their work. Hazeen's verses make the audience ecstatic and inspire them to polish their own skills.'
Other Mehfils, however, attracted crowds for non-literary reasons:
(The poet Miran) is humble, well-mannered and hospitable.(But) he is also a connoisseur in the art of attracting charming new faces… As a result Miran's Mehfils always attract the beautiful and their lovers. Dancers begin to assemble from morning onwards… A large number of pretty young lads are lured to the show including both Hindu and Muslim catamites. Good looking women gather in such large numbers that the mere sight of them appeases the appetite, although (of course) for the lecherous this does not suffice.
Khan was in
It is, of course, an image of the city very far removed from the way most
You can still find them in the dark gullies of the
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 8:35 PM
Queen Harish presents her Mujra Mehfil Theme Night at the Harem of Udaipur City Palace, the Zenana Mahal.
It featured, in the most opulent setup: Bansi Lal Dholi on Fire, Nazir & Rafiq Niazi on Qawals and Chand Mohamed on Caligraphies, an evening produced by Arnaud Azzouz for Seventy.
The Mujra Mehfil Night is a highly entertaining and interactive spectacle total lead by Queen H a r i s h, that goes on climaxing for several hours of uninterrupted music and irrepressible dances.
This choreographed show, theme evening, recalls of when the Mughals took control of India, they had many of the original Hindu storytellers of the region of Rajasthan, brought into the courts as entertainers. In the courts, because stories from Hindu mythology were not of interest to the Mughal rulers, what was once the dance Kathak became infused with fast spinning, swift movements, and graceful hand gestures of Persian influence - the birth of "Mujra".
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 5:18 PM
Queen HarIsh drew inspiration for her romantic character from the Courtesan cinema such as ‘Umrao Jan’, ‘Pakeezah’ … these films shows the golden age of Indian entertainment.
Tudor Parfitt writes about it in her book: "Jews, Muslims,and Mass Media: Mediating the 'other' ":
The courtesan appears throughout Indian cultural texts, so it is not surprising that courtesans feature in many films, mostly in minor roles. However, some of the most popular film in Indian cinema may be class as 'courtesan films', in that their heroines are courtesans, while the usual gender imbalance of the films is reversed in that the heroes have minor roles. In films that have the courtesan in minor roles she is often Hindu but in the major roles she is always a Muslim. The two great films in which the main heroine is a courtesan are set in nineteenth century Avadhi Lucknow and
The courtesan whose trade flourished in
The courtesan has also been a popular figure in film, where her attractions give rise to a variety of pleasures in the audience. She is portrayed as a victim of men's lust and as an object of the viewer's pity, but also delights the audience in being the object of the male gaze as she dances for his entertainment. The combination of a beautiful actress, and the opoortunity for music and dance to be incorporated into the narrative are important, but viewers also enjoy the spectacle of the body, the elaboration of scenery and in particular of clothing, tied to a certain nostalgia arising from the decline and disappearance of courtesan culture.The courtesan in the film makes her living by her sexual charms, and so is presented as an object of desire to the men in the mehfil ('gathering') and to the cinema audience. This usually culminates in the Mujra, where the filmmaler emphasizes the details of lyrics, music, costume and mise-en-scene. The role of the courtesan in films has been given only to the most beautiful actresses, such as Meena Kumari as the eponymous Pakeezah, while the most glamorous actress of her generation, Rekha, has had numerous courtesan roles including that of Umrao Jaan. Although the courtesan displays her sexual allure at all times in the film, she is usually presented as averse to her trade, to which she has been driven by the injustices of society, calling her body a Zinda lash ('living corpse'). An accomplished singer and dancer, she also writes Ghazals in which she expresses her desire for love and marriage, which she knows will be denied her because of her profession. Yet one of her attractions is that she is the woman who is the opposite of the wife, like the beloved of the Ghazal, she is unattainable, remote and perfect. Her sexuality is not associated with reproduction, nor is she expected to offer any nurture unlike the Hindu heroine – rather she is the essence of female eroticism. (
In Hindi cinema, the courtesan is pure (Pakeezah) and part of this is that she never appears in any way immodestly dressed. In fact one of the pleasure of the courtesan film lies in its elaborate use of clothing and make up. While Stella Bruzzi has discussed the meaning of clothes in western cinema, the semiotics of costume in Indian cinema has been little explored although it is an important source of symbols and signifiers of codes concerning status or class, westernization and the symbolic use of colour. Clothing in cinema is clearly a source of spectacle, sometime taken to extremes in song sequences where the heroine, and sometime the hero, has numerous costume changes to present a heady excess of consumption. As Bruzzi has argued, clothing is an important component of eroticism. This is foregrounded in the courtesan film, where the heroine's clothes heighten sexuality by their opulence and rich colours and textures, and their elaboration presents an exaggerated exhibition of gender difference. The veil is used to effect in the film to hide and conceal, in a display of eroticism rather than modesty, seen in the first song in Pakeezah (Inhen logon 'Those people') where the courtesan sings how men have taken her veil or her modesty. The courtesan is the woman who is constantly available for the male gaze, yet she remains concealed within her kotha, away from the eyes of wider society.
The courtesan film also fetishises the woman's body, usually the feet, which is one of the few uncovered parts of her body, although they are decorated with colours and jewellery. This is very clear in Pakeezah, where the lover leaves a note tucked into Pakeezah's toes on the train; Aap ke paon bahut haseen hain. Inhen zameen par mat utariyega, maile ho jaayenge! ( Your feet are very beautiful. Do not let them touch the ground, they will get dirty!') and her dance at her lover's wedding where she lacerates her feet on broken glass to leave symbolically resonant bloody marks on the white sheet of her performance. The only parts of her body which are usually visible are her hands, hennaed, manicured and bejeweled; and her mask-like face, again elaborately painted and jeweled, her hair tied back, and covered with a veil and more jewels.
The courtesan is a totally romantic figure: a beautiful but tragic woman, who pours out her grief for the love she is desied in tears, poetry and dance. Yet although denied marriage and respectability, she is also a source of power. The courtesan in the film live in splendid buildings, which are decorated exquisitely. As Veena Oldenburg has pointed out, the courtesan achieved her material and social liberation by reversing constraints on women's chastity and economic rights, succeeding through her combination of talent and education. The courtesans set up their own society within the Khotas, where they inverted many of society's rituals such as celebrating the birth of a girl like the birth of a boy in mainstream Indian culture. Perhaps women enjoy the pleasures the courtesan film as they find a figure of masochistic identification , a woman who canot find the love she wants, yet knowing that a woman's sexual attractions can provide her with power. Men may also enjoy the voyeuristic pleasures of looking at a beautiful sexually accomplished, woman yet whose status as victim allows for male fantasies of "saving her" – mostly from other men.
The beauty of the actresses in the courtesan film was not the only reason for their popularity. They were also women who had strong star personas, as the most beautiful, most tragic stars who themselves were never lucky in love. Their offscreen lives were read onto the image of the courtesan in film, as can be seen most clearly in the taking up of these stars as camp and gay icons, notably in the case of Meena Kumari (1932-1972).
This filmi view of the courtesan is very different from that presented in the book. Instead of the exquisite Rekha portraying an innocent Umrao Jaan, who falls in love with one of her clients while her story is told as a failed love story; in the novel Umrao admits she was rather plain and never fell in love although she had a number of significant affairs in addition to her regular clients. Rather than pining for an impossible love affair, she loves her work, her poetry and the pleasure, luxury and respect that this brought her. Aware of the pleasure of nostalgia, the last chapter in the book is the account of Umrao's reading of Ruswa's story of her life, where she sums it up herself in a clear, insightful manner. She was a prostitute, no beauty, but a woman of intelligence and skill:
It was my profession to dance and sing and steal men's hearts.
I was happy or unhappy depending on whether I was more or less successful than others in my profession.
I was not as pretty as the others, but because of my talent for music and mastery of poetry, I was one of the best.
Posted by Queen H a r i s h at 4:16 PM