Indian Drag Queens, Gulabi Aaina, and “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke” from Umrao Jaan (1981)

I have been fooled by official looking film festival palm leaf logos before. Haven’t you?  Those palms make something look legitimate and award worthy. So when a friend sent me Gulabi Aaina (2003) and I saw those leaves on the DVD I thought it would be great.  It’s a movie about drag queens who perform some Bollywood hits.  How could I not love it?  Unfortunatley, the palm leaves and the drag queens performing Bollywood tunes gave me high expectations that simply could not be met.  The film opens with “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke” from Umrao Jaan (1981).  For those who’ve seen that, you already know that there’s no way to improve upon perfection.  Enjoy Mohammed Zahur Khayyam‘s gorgeous tune from the original movie, picturized on Rekha and performed by playback singer Asha Bhosle.

Thanks to amangill for the video.


If you haven’t already seen the classic Umrao Jaan, check out what these wonderful blogs have to say:

Philip’sfil-ums HERE.

Bitten by Bollywood’s Nida, HERE.

Filmi Geek HERE.

Doc Bollywood HERE.

About Gulabi Aaina:

The Pink Mirror pits two Indian drag queens against a westernized gay teenager in a battle to woo a handsome hunk. It’s a clash of the east and west. Who will win? The drag queens, who are expert in the art of seduction with their wit, innuendo and cunning or the young teenager who is saucy, slutty and sly? Underneath the campy humorous exterior, the film is an exploration of the Indian gay landscape and understanding of the deep, humanly tender bondings that exist between drag queens in India who form unique, non-patriarchal families. Using the Bollywood soap idiom of song, dance and drama and for the first time in the Indian drag queens’ very own language, Hindi, the film also explores other veiled issues related to the Indian gay community: the lurking threat of HIV/AIDS. (IMDB)

 Controversy around Gulabi Aaina:

In 2003, the Indian Censor Board banned the film ‘Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror)’, a film on Indian transsexuals produced and directed by Sridhar Rangayan. The censor board cited that the film was ‘vulgar and offensive’. The filmmaker appealed twice again unsuccessfully. The film still remains banned in India, but has screened at numerous festivals all over the world and won awards. The critics have appluaded it for its ‘sensitive and touching portrayal of marginalized community’ (Wikipedia)

I think maybe it was banned because it was offensive that anyone would try and recapture Rekha’s Umrao Jaan performing “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke.”  :)

If I’m going to watch a drag queen, it will be Queen Harish of Rajasthan, the “Dancing, Whirling Desert Drag Queen,” featured a few months back over at Rough In Here. If I’m going to watch “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke,” it must be picturized on Rekha! I’ll also accept Queen Harish‘s intrepretation of Umrao Jaan.  

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8 thoughts on “Indian Drag Queens, Gulabi Aaina, and “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke” from Umrao Jaan (1981)

  1. Hi, Sita-ji. Thanks for referring to my post about Queen Harish after all these months… I checked out that scene from the new film that she’s in, and it was pretty good.

    I was impressed, shorly after I wrote that post, to see Queen Harish herself writing back to answer some questions that I had about Musafir, the band that I saw her dancing with more than a decade ago.

    (So, thank you, Queen Harish, who is more likely than not reading this. :)… )

    P.S. Yes, Rekha does seem just perfect in Umrao Jaan, from clips that I’ve seen. I still have to see the whole film sometime.

  2. Namaste Richard. I DID notice that Queen Harish had responded to your post and was very impressed. If you are reading this Rani Harish, Namaste to you too!

    You will love Rekha in “Umrao Jaan” Richard. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  3. Yes payal, they exist. It would be fun to see a worldwide documentary of drag queens. Somebody get out there and make that for me please. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Dear Sita ji..Hi !

    I just had finished posting my feelings about your comments/impressions about Hare kishna Hare Rama on jamaun dot com., that I saw your pick of this song…

    I like it very much and the way you wrote about it impressed me too. I felt you deserve admiration from me. I congritulate you for such a nice english and lovely way you use it.

    With all respects and loves


  5. Namaste Pyardular!
    I just finished reading your fascinating tale at jaman!

    Thanks so much for that kind reply. Others interested follow this link, then click on the “reply” to my review under Sita-ji:

    Pyardular, what torture to not be able to see the films in a time that VCRs and DVDs weren’t available. Your time in Lahore must have been bittersweet, so close and so far from the films. ANd your near miss with Hare Rama Hare Krishna sounds almost devastating! Now you can catch up though! Just like me! I feel so lucky to have “discovered” the Indian film industry. It has added a lot of quality to my free time. It’s a great “time pass” as you Indians say, or pass time as we Americans say. :)

    I was so surprised to hear “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke” at the beginning of Gulabi Aaina and thought HOW could anyone reprise Rekha’s performance, especially a man. :) But it was a great effort.

    Thanks for visiting friend!

  6. Whatever you say… I loved Gulabi Aaina… it was so campy… I think the director was not reprising Rekha, but just paying a tribute to her and the evergreen song… which has become every gay man’s anthem!

  7. Namaste nirmal,
    I did like the film, I was trying to express that nothing compares to the Umrao Jaan performance of “In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke,” and you are correct about the director paying tribute. :)

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