Smitin Bhosale, a Hyderabad resident, is a Kathak dancer, make-up, and drag artist who opened up to the world about his sexual identity as gay through performing arts.
As much as Kathak portrays various emotions through hand movements and facial gestures, it also is a way of freedom of expression for Smitin Bhosale, a trained Kathak dancer from Mumbai, who, though, was never allowed to take up dance due to societal prejudices. A common perception and stereotype attached to the classical dance that considers it to be women’s forte always encircled Bhosale and was enforced by his family. Thanks to his sheer determination and courage to stand for his passion that the audience does not stop clapping and appreciating his performances now.
Raised in a conformist nuclear family in Mumbai, neither did Bhosale have siblings nor friends that would often make him feel lonely. Although he was good at studies, he could never find contentment in “conventional fields” that are supposed to be taken up by boys in their schools, like sports. Instead, he was interested in dance, other art forms, and cultural activities. But how could a boy choose these over sports? So he was not allowed to live his interest by his family.
During his early schooling, he happened to showcase “feminine traits” that not only bothered his family but also made Smitin a victim of mocking. Gradually, as he reached Class 10, he encountered a sensual feeling for his male classmates, making it the first time for him to realize, his sexuality could be different. Recounting the days, Bhosale says, “It was as natural of a feeling as a boy could have felt for a girl or a girl for a boy.” There was no question of sharing it with the family, and he rather chose to opt for higher studies, outside Mumbai, to be able to live his life as per his choice.
Even though he wanted to pursue Biology, he was forced to take Engineering, which he could not refuse and had to take up the family’s preference as he went to Nagpur for his studies. The new life invited a lot of opportunities for Bhosale to explore himself. He made friends after a long while, though, chose not to talk about his personal life. However, that did not stop him from searching about ‘homosexuality’ on the internet and was taken aback by the results that indicated it to be wrong.
Bhosale started to adjust his behaviour and feelings as per what seemed right and would pretend to show interest in girls. During this time, he met with an institution advocating spirituality, and impressed by the thoughts, Bhosale dedicated himself to this field along with his studies. When the people from the institution told Bhosale that he must get over his feelings of liking men, it became unbearable for him, and he felt helpless to the extent that he even tried to die by suicide.
How one art let to the interest of another
No one could trace Bhosale, who reached a remote place on the border of Nepal to end his life. The jungles, wild animals, heavy rains, and the unfavourable situation could have eliminated him, as Bhosale says, but he survived, and that turned out to be a motivating factor for him. “I thought that if God kept me alive amid life-taking situations, I must live and stop running away from myself,” he adds. The self-acceptance led Bhosale to envision life from a different perspective where not only did he understand himself and love the way he was but also took up everything he was not allowed earlier.
He went to Pune and started preparing for IIT as he thought of fulfilling his dream of studying Biotechnology and made his way into IIT Guwahati in 2019. While he prepared for the competitive examination, he also landed a job with a school in Pune to teach Chemistry. The circumstances turned out to be in favour when Bhosale proposed to teach Biology in the absence of the subject teacher and later, found a permanent place in the subject’s department.
Meanwhile, he also learnt Kathak and a few other dance forms like belly dance. It opened up a lot of options for him to express his feelings and emotions. Slowly, he started coming out about his sexuality as gay through performing arts. A few girls from IIT also taught him to wear and walk in heels. “I believe, women are incomparably artistic in many things, and I was always blown away by their art of doing make-up and learned it too,” says the 29-year-old, talking about the necessity of make-up for stage shows and how it caught his attention.
Now, not only is he confident about his identity but also loves the medium to express his forever hidden thoughts to the world. It was through make-up that he also got interested in Drag – an art form that uses music and dance to entertain. In a recent drag performance, however, when he was expected to let go of his beard to look “feminine”, he refused to do so out of his love for the beard. Turns out, Bhosale, who now lives in Hyderabad, discovered a new look for drag performances with make-up and beard together!
Bhosale opened up about his sexuality to his family in 2020, after which he visited them for the first time last month. He brought gifts for them, and the visit was pleasant, with no conversation about his identity.
While he seeks his family’s support in all of the major decisions in life, Bhosale’s pillar of strength revolves around performing arts which he calls “therapeutic” and “his whole life”.
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