I had a chance to chat with Waseem Shaikh, one of the founders and creative director of Rangeela about their upcoming party “Samundar” that is part of Pride Toronto celebrations.

Tell us about the concept behind this, what got it started. I understand it to be a not for profit initiative?

Rangeela is Canada’s largest LGBT+ Bollywood club event. It’s big (as all things “Bollywood” should be), it’s (very) gay, and it’s completely not-for-profit.

I love Bollywood. When I was a kid back where I was born in Kuwait, being close to India and having large Indian community in Kuwait, meant one or two Bollywood movies on television every weekend. Myself and my family loved them, so we would sit around and enjoy the colourful stories and costumes, and the lively very catchy songs.

That’s amazing! I was born in Dubai, and Thursday night Bollywood movies were a staple of my childhood, too. As a kid, I always wondered if anyone actually read the Arabic subtitles, so it’s really awesome to hear of those movies from your experience.

Share with us a little bit please about how this event started?

We started Rangeela in 2011, in response to the monsoon floods that ravaged Pakistan’s Sindh region, affecting 20 million people. None of Rangeela’s founders (myself, Shazad Hai, Imran Nayani and Haran Vijayanathan) were club promoters by trade. But we had access to a community, and an opportunity to fund raise for those in need. So, we did it. Haran Vijayanathan has since moved on to be Executive Director at ASAAP, and Siva Gunaratnam has joined the team.

That is a very compassionate and wonderful reason behind it. So, is this exclusively a Pride party of do you do other event during the year?

We do quarterly events. It used to be about three a year. This is our first year doing five events, because it turns out there’s a lot of good people who love Bollywood.

So, tell us about all the exciting stuff to accept at Pride? Any special them headliners, DJs, performances and such, and don’t hold back we want to hear all the exciting details 🙂 ?

Oh, baby. We’re turning 7, so it’s gonna be a celebration!

We’re working on this gorgeous oceanic décor for the club. DJ Aman’s always been a fan favorite. He’s back! And there’s an extremely special performance we’re workshopping with Manghoe Lassi, who has really been at the forefront of modern, high-concept South Asian drag. I wish I could tell you more, but for now I’ll just tell you to expect an “under the sea” surprise!

There have been other Bollywood themed events in the community in the past, what differentiates Rangeela from the others?

Rangeela flows from a rich history of queer, Bollywood events in Toronto— Desh Pardesh, Funk Asia, Queer Indian Mela, Besharam, Tamasha, the list is long. We’ve been lucky to take that legacy and expand on it, and make it more accessible for the next generation of South Asian LGBT+ folks.

What differentiates Rangeela from the parties before us are the times that we live in. 15 years ago, social media wasn’t as prevalent, dating apps weren’t around. Both of these have shaped the queer scene, but also the ways in which a queer event is sold. Drag wasn’t as mainstream as it is today— today, we get to see young queens really challenging what South Asian drag means. Also, we’re witnessing the first post-internet generation slowly trickling into the party scene—both in Canada, and in many parts of South Asia. So the conversations around parties like Rangeela aren’t just local anymore. There’s a global interest. Even at the parties, there are fewer divisions between people who grew up here, or people who have freshly immigrated. We see both, and we seem them blend at this beautiful common juncture. It’s a really exciting time to be a queer, South Asian-Canadian.

Lastly let’s give our readers some details, date, time, how to get tickets, all the lovely stuff?

Friday, June 22nd, at Club 120 (120 Church St.)
Doors open at 10!
Tickets are $15 online, $25 at the door. I always tell people to buy online, because they get priority access in the event of a line-up!
Links:  Facebook event page: https://bit.ly/2kazVyF Tickets link: https://bit.ly/2IxAGAA

And thank you so much Antoine for this conversation.

Thank you Waseem, and Happy Pride 🙂


About the Author

Antoine has on numerous occasions said that everything he does is "a love letter to the LGBTQ community". and he truly loves this community. A 29 years' media and marketing leader, Antoine is the publisher of theBUZZ, The Pink Pages Directory, PinkPlayMags, and a magazine for Durham Region families The Local Biz Magazine, and is the host of talk show "On the Couch". On his off time he is usually involved in community organizations and causes.