Human societies have had gendered dress codes since the beginning of dressing up but humans have also cross-dressed since centuries for different reasons. Historically, cross-dressing didn’t mean a slur and was used to disguise people, ensure comfort and sometimes, self-discovery. Cross-dressing often fuels images of deviant sexualities and lifestyles in the minds of a populace fueled by politics and religion. Never mind the hordes of Bollywood characters we have laughed at/with, applauded, cried with for not just cross-dressing but displaying characteristics opposite to the ones assigned to their gender via our social constructs. The portrayal may be faulty, but here are Bollywood’s greatest cross-dressing acts that have been hits with masses of every sexual orientation:
Aamir Khan – Baazi (1995) / Tata Sky
From doing a seductive number for a movie, to playing a relatable aunty in the Tata Sky advertisements, Aamir Khan has done plenty of roles in the drag form.
Kamal Hassan – Chachi 420 (1997)
India’s greatest cross dressing movie about a man turning into a house-help to win his wife and child back won both mass and critical acclaim.
Ritesh Deshmukh – Apna Sapna Money Money (2006)
One of the most convincing characters played by Ritesh Deshmukh, his cross dressed avatar Sania was a riot to watch.
Rani Mukherjee – Dil Bole Hadippa (2009)
A woman fighting patriarchy to play cricket in a field dominated by men made for an interesting tale to watch.
Govinda – Aunty No. 1 (1994)
Perhaps India’s favourite aunty, Govinda is a master of perfecting drag performances.
Biswajeet – Kismat (1960)
Remember the evergreen ‘kajra mohabbat wala’? The lead dancer in the song is a young Biswajeet while his heroine plays the guy in it!
Shammi Kapoor – Bluffmaster (1963)
The original in every way.
Amitabh Bachchan – Laawaris (1981)
Remember the classic song, ‘jiski biwi’? Amitabh Bachchan takes the form of a passionate woman crooning away.
Rishi Kapoor – Rafoo Chakkar (1975)
This movie follows two friends who are unwitting witnesses to a murder and change identities to transform into women to escape criminals. What follows is a hysterical same sex romance-drama.
Ashutosh Rana – Sangharsh (1999)
A classic performance in Bollywood history. Ashutosh Rana’s portrayal of a cross-dressing, religious fanatic baying for Preity Zinta’s blood is spine chilling.
Prashant Narayanan – Murder 2 (2011)
A clinically true portrayal of a man imprisoned in his own mind, this movie is a step further than Dushman to chill every last bone in your body.
Sadashiv Amrapurkar- Sadak (1991)
Dubbed as one of the most classic Bollywood drag performances, Sadashiv Amrapurkar is a raging powerhouse.
Sridevi – Mr. India (1987)
Sultry Sridevi pays homage to Charlie Chaplin in a cross-dressing role that is pivotal to her character’s development in the movie.
Saira Banu – Junglee (1961)
In her debut movie, a scene requires Saira Banu to dress as a sadhu who coerces Shammi Kapoor to make a trip to the snowy mountains.
Madhubala – Raj Hath (1956)
Madhubala plays a princess who enters enemy territory under the guise of a man to retrieve a map essential to her homeland.