R. Raj Rao

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R. Raj Rao
R. Raj Rao, Goa 2015.jpg
Born1955 (age 67–68)
Bombay, India
OccupationWriter, professor of literature
Alma materUniversity of Bombay
University of Warwick
GenrePoststructuralism, LGBT literature
Notable worksThe Boyfriend

Ramachandrapurapu Raj Rao (born 1955) is an Indian writer, poet and teacher of literature who has been described as "one of India's leading gay-rights activists".[1] His 2003 novel The Boyfriend is one of the first gay novels to come from India.[2][3] Rao was one of the first recipients of the newly established Quebec-India awards.[4]

Personal life[edit]

R. Raj Rao was born in Bombay, India. He earned a PhD in English from the University of Bombay in 1986 and received the Nehru Centenary British Fellowship for his post-doctoral research at the Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick, UK[5] He attended the International Writing Program, Iowa, in 1996.[6] His works include Slide Show (poems). He has edited Ten Indian Writers in Interview and co-edited Image of India in the Indian Novel in English (1960–1980). He works as a professor and head of the English Department at the University of Pune. Rao is openly gay.[7] On the recurring themes of homosexuality in his works, Rao says: "I am myself a poet, novelist, playwright and writer of non-fiction. Similarly, my teaching and research interests in queer theory and queer literature are a direct and natural outcome of my being gay and imaginatively tackling the subject in my fiction, poetry and plays."[5] His poems appeared in many prestigious poetry anthologies like The Dance of the Peacock besides other noted journals and anthologies.[8][9]

Rao in the queer scene[edit]

Poems from Rao's BOMGaY collection served as the basis for Riyad Vinci Wadia's film Bomgay (1996),[10] said to be India's first gay film. The Boyfriend was his first novel.[11] It was released with fanfare by Penguin India all over the country in 2003. Filled with irreverent, dry humour and devoid of sentimentality, The Boyfriend is a tragi-comic love story set in the jumbled up heart of Mumbai. According to a blurb, "[The Boyfriend] also deals with unsparing irony the realities of caste, class, religion, masculinity and the gay subculture in India".[12] It created quite a stir when it first appeared and was discussed in many prominent magazines as a guide to the then underground gay subculture in Bombay.[13][14] It went on to be used as a model for the queer scene in India in researches in the field of queer studies.[15][16][17]

Rao published the non-fiction work Whistling in the Dark in 2009, the novels Hostel Room 131 in 2010 and Lady Lolita's Lover[18] in 2015.

Following the success of The Boyfriend, Rao founded the Queer Studies Circle at Pune University.[19] Rao was one of the first to offer a course on LGBT literature at the university level in India.[20] Rao first offered it in 2007, after years of resistance on the part of his academic superiors. He said: "It's strange how the academic fraternity that has always been quick to accept all kinds of literature — Marxist, feminist, Dalit — had a huge reservation when it came to queer literature. For years, the Board of Studies refused to let us start the course saying that 'Indian students do not need it'. Finally we clubbed it with Dalit literature and started it under the genre of Alternative Literature."[21]


  • Sildeshow (Peepal Tree Press, 1992), poems
  • Image of India in the Indian Novel in English (1960–1985) (South Asia Books, 1993), co-editor with Sudhakar Pandey
  • Nissim Ezekiel: The Authorized Biography (Viking, 2000)
  • One Day I Locked My Flat in Soul City (HarperCollins India, 2001), short stories
  • The Wisest Fool on Earth and Other Plays (The Brown Critique, Kolkata)
  • The Boyfriend (Penguin, 2003), novel
  • Whistling in the Dark: Twenty-One Queer Interviews (Sage, 2009), co-editor with Dibyajyoti Sarma
  • Hostel Room 131 (2010), novel
  • Lady Lolita's Lover (HarperCollins India, 2015), novel
  • Ten Indian Authors in Interview, editor
  • Madam, Give Me My Sex (Bloomsbury India, 2019), novel


  1. ^ Massachusetts Institute of Technology: "Speaker Profiles," April 2004, accessed 15 May 2011
  2. ^ Arora, Kim (7 February 2011). "Authors get bold as gay literature picks up in India". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 6 June 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  3. ^ Pink Pages: The Boyfriend, accessed 15 May 2011
  4. ^ Concordia University: "Quebec-India Visiting Scholar Awards Program Welcomes Two Professors," January 29, 2008 Archived 23 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 15 May 2011
  5. ^ a b Concordia Journal: Karen Herland, "International Interdisciplinary," February 14, 2008, accessed 15 May 2011
  6. ^ "Raj Rao to read his plays today," April 1, 2011, accessed 15 May 2011
  7. ^ Kavi, Ashok Row (26 September 2010), "Too queer to be true", Hindustan Times, archived from the original on 29 October 2010, retrieved 9 January 2011
  8. ^ Grove, Richard. "The Dance of the Peacock:An Anthology of English Poetry from India". No. current. Hidden Brook Press, Canada. Archived from the original on 29 September 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  9. ^ Press, Hidden Brook. "Hidden Brook Press". Hidden Brook Press. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  10. ^ Internet Movie Database: Bomgay (1996), accessed 15 May 2011
  11. ^ Sandeep Bakshi, Fractured Resistance: Queer Negotiations of the Postcolonial in R. Raj Rao’s The Boyfriend, South Asian Review, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2012
  12. ^ "The Boyfriend - Goodreads". Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  13. ^ Hindu Literary Review: "First Impression," September 7, 2003, accessed 15 May 2011
  14. ^ BBC: Zubair Ahmed , "Gay Bombay comes out," June 19, 2003, accessed 15 May 2011
  15. ^ Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies: Terry Goldie, "R. Raj Rao's The Boyfriend: A Model of the Indian Homosexual?," September 10, 2006 Archived 23 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 15 May 2011
  16. ^ Iowa Research Online: Sucheta Mallick Choudhuri, "Transgressive territories: queer space in Indian fiction and film," 2009, accessed 15 May 2011
  17. ^ York University: "Sexuality and Literature: Sexology vs. Fiction", accessed 15 May 2011
  18. ^ HarperCollins India: "Lady Lolita’s Lover", accessed 20 August 2018
  19. ^ Times of India: "Gay rights groups hail bid to amend law," July 27, 2002, accessed 15 May 2011
  20. ^ The Punekar: "Marathi teacher takes charge of English department at Pune University," October 15, 2010 Archived 31 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 15 May 2011
  21. ^ The Punekar: "Gay-lesbian course at UoP sets an example for other universities," July 16, 2009 Archived 4 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 15 May 2011

External links[edit]