Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
By Keerthi Prakasam Does the name Mayamma ring a bell? Calling herself an entertainer and with a growing fan base in Bangalore, Mayamma is one of India’s first drag queens from Kuttanad who hopes to bring a change in the society with her performance. A drag queen is a person, traditionally male, who dresses up and acts with exaggerated femininity and in female gender roles for comic, dramatic or satirical effect.  Though associated with pop culture in some countries, the concept of drag queens is yet to enter mainstream India. The story behind Mayamma's origin goes like this: “Let's go to one of the states in India known as Kerala. Truly known as the God's own country, In the Kuttanad region of the Alappuzha, there was a lake known as Vembanad Lake, Near that lake, there was a lone coconut tree Sad was its middle name, This is because of various issues that India is going through right now. Of all the sadness, the coconut tree couldn't take it anymore, When the moon shone bright, Tree dropped a coconut into the lake, Lake glistened in the moonlight and water fermented, Out of the lake, she emerged, Mayamma!” Alex Mathew, the man who is behind the stage name “Mayamma”, says she stands for “individualism, gender equality and feminism”. Twenty six year old Alex hopes to address such issues vocally with his onstage female alter ego. Alex, unlike Mayamma is from Kochi, Kerala. He is right now working with The Gandhi Foundation, and is an MBA holder. Though Alex was part of many theatre activities, he knew that he wasn’t content. “Mayamma was born around September last year. She got the name because I liked the idea of being the mother of illusions”, he says. The initial idea was a series of Youtube videos as Mayamma. “But before all that I started performing, so far in Bangalore. It is a good going so far, the audience like the “Malayali” thing I throw in by saying “Chechi and Chetta, Kutties and Kuttans”. Mayamma is also a singer and a dancer. Her first big break was also a Malayalam song- Appangalembadum from Ustad Hotel. “You know in Bangalore, they may not even understand the lyrics, but they go with the beat. The crowd likes that, also every time I try and enact a different story. Like a break up or whatever, but it will be things anyone can connect too, and no matter what, I want the audience to always go back happy, not sad”, Alex says. So now Mayamma has her own cool way of singing all songs, whether it is Niki Minaj or Christina Aguilera. But how was life for Alex in the initial days as Mayamma? “It was difficult, like I kept asking my girl friends how they manage to actually put on a bra and a blouse. I mean, it hurts and I wasn’t used to it”, Alex says. But now he is at ease at being Mayamma- “Now I know how to drape a saree around myself without any help, and get ready too. But it took some time for me to learn, that was my transitioning I guess”. Through Mayamma, Alex really hopes to empower women, and address many issues that are considered taboo in society, without being aptly addressed. Mayamma also shells out advice to the needed through her Facebook project 'Ask Mayamma' - in style we might add. Post by Mayamma. Alex says that Mayamma gathered a lot of inspiration from legendary drag queens across the world, and also some of our own southern super heroes. “Dileep’s Mayamohini was a big inspiration. Somehow I thought he cross dressed so perfectly and pulled it off so well, it was a big inspiration. In fact, I sat down with “Avvai Shanmughi” and other movies. If you look at it, cross dressing goes way back in southern movies”, Alex says. But despite that there is resistance, he says. Alex parents for instance, were initially supportive of his venture as “Mayamma”, but after his first gig they backed off. “I think they got scared that I’ll turn into a full-time cross dresser. But that’s not my thing, on the road I am just Alex, not Mayamma.” (All images source: Mayamma's Facebook page) Tweet Follow @thenewsminute