Dekho Magar Pyaar Se
To question the idea of gender as being limited to the mutually exclusive idea of man and woman.
To transform and reimagine the images of hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity that are shoved down our throats in three contexts: Bollywood and advertisements, the ever-pervasive recyclers of micro-aggressions; the “gender police”- the impunity with which social institutions use “purity of Indian culture” and religious jingoism to justify gender normativity; and lastly our own families, who may be privileged, educated and progressive but still carry the same underlying misconceptions and fears.
The world makes it quite clear that some people belong and some people simply don’t. All around us we see images of the ideal man and the ideal woman that oppress those of us who stray from the norm. As Indians, the idea of gender is even more complicated for us because we carry with us centuries of ideals, tradition and rituals that determine appropriate
behaviour. This performance attempts to not only tear down the majoritarian view on gender politics, but also disassemble it and use its parts to build an alternative reality.
The 2009 Naz judgement delivered by the High Court on Section 377 (which essentially criminalised any sexual activity which did not result in procreation) has come to be a landmark judgement in recent times. The judgement is poignant, not only because it empowered the queer community, but also because it spoke of the government’s interference in the spheres of privacy and freedom as something that affects everyone- therefore universalising the the sense of repression felt by those who identify as queer. Using extracts from this judgement as a backdrop, this piece weaves together 4 sequences that aim to make our understanding of gender more fluid and empathetic.
Referencing queer performance artist Tim Miller’s intensely private manner and genderqueer musician and performer Vaginal Davis’ alienating and subversive tactics, the show is a blend of realism, the grotesque and
movement-based work. It is designed as an intimate solo- inviting members of the audience to have a long hard look at the monsters that they themselves have been complicit in creating .
-Projector and Projector Screen
I have recently finished my first year at the London International School of Performing Arts. Over the last 2 years, I have been involved in several projects relating to sexuality. One of them was Keep Calm and Hashtag, a play developed for 13-18 year old children. This was commissioned by the Goethe-Institut (Bangalore), mentored by Sophia Stepf (Flinntheater, Berlin) and produced by Theatre Professionals. We perform the play in schools, after which there is an hour-long discussion with the teenagers. As we performed subsequent shows, even in the so-called progressive schools, it became very clear how deeply entrenched our gender-related prejudices were. There were instances where boys were singled out for growing their nails or hair (“ladkiyon ke tarah”), and girls were reprimanded for short skirts or talking to boys. When this kind of exclusion comes from the peer group, it is easier to tackle. But often, the students told us it was the teachers who were responsible for the policing.
In August 2015, the Goethe-Institut (Bangalore) and Sandbox Collective selected 10 projects out of 100 applications for an called “Gender Bender,” where artists from different disciplines were given a grant to showcase new ideas about gender. A 10-minute version of this performance was showcased at Gender Bender.
In July 2015, Queer Ink produced a short film that I wrote and directed. The film centers around the harassment of queer people by police personnel. I am deeply interested in the politics of gender and sexuality in India and firmly believe that it is through performance and similar interventions that one can try to make a difference.
This show has been directed by Gurleen Judge. Gurleen is a light designer, drama facilitator and a director who has been working in the theatre for the last 6 years. She has designed lights for plays such as Postcards from Bardoli, The Boy Who Stopped Smiling, Peele Scooter Wala Admi among others. Gurleen is Assistant Director for Keep Calm and Hashtag, and is currently also directing Ramu Ramanathan’s new play Ambu and Rajalakshmi.