Like most fervour, the one ignited by Pakistan’s first ever (publicly promoted) drag show was an especially vivacious one. The show drew in audience members from far and wide, we travelled from Islamabad with a group of others who were excited and ablaze with anticipation over what the show was going to be and truthfully, how it would be received.
‘‘We had to double the booking of our show and do it on two different days, our response was technically 400 times more than we expected!” said Muhammad Moiz, one half of the stars of the show.
Hosted by Olomopolo Media at their Olo Junction performance space in Lahore, Pakistan’s first drag comedy show hilariously titled Liberals Ki Akhri Saazish, literally lit up the stage for a night of dance, conversation, comedy and camaraderie.
The show starred Pudhina Chatni (a character played expertly by creator and comedian Muhammad Moiz who recently moved back from the United States) and Anaya Sheikh of Lahore’s chapter of the all female comedy stand up troupe Auratnaak and the first trans-woman comedian on Pakistan’s comedic scene.
Pudhina, or Miss Chatni, opened up the show with a song and dance routine that introduced the audience to what would be a dominating feature of the night to come: palpable energy
No topics were off limits for Miss Chatni, be it her relationships with men (both of love and resentment), the type of boys and men the ladies of Punjab are subjected to (in a hilarious bit where when it comes to matters of the heart it was clear: location, location, location) to sex positivity and simply, having a good time.
‘The idea of the show emerged from the fact that I wanted to do something really bold and really radical,’ Moiz told Something Haute. “I thought Lahore was the best place to do it because Lahore is always pushing boundaries in a way.”
“I discovered drag when I was in Pakistan before going to the US through Ru Paul’s Drag Race and from the local drag culture in Pakistan which is very hidden; it happens behind closed doors, it’s mostly for fun – people just do it to bond with each other and it hasn’t been taken to a theatre or a stage platform.”
When one thinks of Pakistan, and Pakistani entertainment, drag queens and drag culture can toe the line of misunderstood to even rejected. Though cross dressing is no new avenue for comedians and comedic shows with Pakistan comedies often utilising gender bending clothing swaps, drag culture itself is virtually unseen.
“I haven’t performed drag at all, this is my first time performing as a drag artist and the reason for that is the drag culture in the US is very American making it something that I can’t relate to at all. I have a very Pakistani outlook towards things and I think drag in Pakistan is much more nuanced it’s much more Pakistani, and I’m a Pakistani through and through.”
We asked if there were any concerns about keeping the space safe and welcoming.
“We think Pakistan is a very misunderstood country, even by us comedians. Our thought is people are actually very open, they are receptive to different sorts of humour, and we as performers know how to package it so it is still true to our aesthetic and the meaning we are trying to give, while also being relatable.”
As an audience member it was a night for the books. It was about inclusion though it never veered preachy. The acts of Chatni and of Anaya Sheikh (whose stand up has won her following and like her stage partner she did not disappoint with talking about things people often don’t talk about in our culture) solidified a celebration for not only the performers but the audience that got to be included in a ground breaking and boundary eliminating show.
Photo Credits: Nial Muenuddin