When the queer activist Vishnu Teja was approached by Patruni Chidananda Sastry, a Hyderabad-based drag artist, for Rangula Rattnam, he realised this was the right opportunity to speak about his lived experiences of being gay. “Unfortunately, there is not much information or queer content in Telugu,” Teja, who works at the Visakhapatnam based Liberty Rebellion Organisation, which works for the rights of sexual minorities, told me. “And, being a gay man based out of Telangana, I strongly feel that there should be vocalisation about the rights of the community in the Telugu language. This podcast is something that will surely bridge the gap.”
Rangula Rattnam—Colourful Carousel—is India’s first queer-centric podcast in Telugu. Each monthly episode features a queer individual and aims to explore narratives from across the queer community. In June last year, Sastry was first approached by Forbidden Verses, an Instagram page that was curating stories about queer experience in regional languages. They soon realised that there is a dearth of queer-friendly content in Telugu—and the seeds of Rangula Rattnam were sown.
With their active participation in the NALSA and Section 377 cases, which defined the rights of transgender people and decriminalised same-sex intercourse, the queer communities in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been among the oldest contributors to queer liberation in India. “The transgender population has existed as the Hijra community or the Shivashakti or the Joginis—these sociocultural identities go back decades,” Vasanta Mogli, a transwoman and one of the founding members of the Telangana Hijra Transgender Samiti, told me. “However, it was in the 1980s that Andhra Pradesh saw an emergence of funded NGOs and organisations for the LGBTQIA+ community. The AIDS epidemic, detected in 1986 among female sex workers in Chennai, and the funding around it, helped the community come together.” In 2016, the Telugu Akademi published Towards a World of Equals: A Bilingual Textbook on Gender, and Telangana became the first state to implement a mandatory undergraduate course on gender.