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Monday, Oct 21, 2019

InQueerable Happenings’ Short and Salty plays showcases diverse LGBT experiences

As the Section 377 verdict completes 377 days, InQueerable Happenings celebrates with the showcase of a short theatre fest in Mumbai

sex-and-relationships Updated: Sep 21, 2019 14:28 IST
Yoshita Rao
Yoshita Rao
Mumbai
Trinetra Tiwari as Rangoli in the play ‘Pehli Shaadi’
Trinetra Tiwari as Rangoli in the play ‘Pehli Shaadi’(Nazia Khan)
         

Walking up a wooden staircase, barefoot, to be seated in a room full of people sitting on floor mattresses and black stands. A fine wire taped to the floor distinguishes the stage from the audience. The lights go dim in preparation for the next act. A woman, dressed in a red sari with gold embellishments, appears from the shadows and walks out on stage to the tune of rock Hindi instrumentals. She catwalks around the stage and strikes a pose centre stage, lifting her dupatta. A tuft of hair peeks through her blouse and Trinetra Tiwari — who has also written the play that she is performing titled ‘Pehli Shaadi’ — unabashedly addresses the light and sound technicians on stage for her cues, eliciting a roar of laughter from the audience. Her play is a part of a showcase of six short plays, that brings forth diverse queer experiences.

InQueerable Happenings, an initiative that provides a platform for queer content, presented Short+Salty on September 18, to celebrate 377 days since Section 377 — which made sexual activities “against the order of nature” illegal — was written down. Despite the weather threatening to rain, Mumbaikars packed the community theatre at Five Senses Theatre, Lokhandwala, Andheri. InQueerable Happenings, which is about four months old, is the brainchild of Shobhna S Kumar, who also runs an LGBT publishing house, Queer Ink, and Vikram Phukan, a theatre commentator and curator of Short+Salty. “People always want to cure you of something that is not according to the ‘norm’, so we punned on ‘incurable’. Plus, it also sounds like Incredibles (the superhero movie),” Vikram laughs.

A still from the play Kiss of the Spiderwoman
A still from the play Kiss of the Spiderwoman ( Photo: Rafique Ranjan )

He says the concept of Short+Salty was inspired by the short theatre festival, which takes place on a global scale, titled, Short+Sweet. “When you think of something queer, you think a little ‘hatke’. So, we added the ‘salty’,” he explains. Shobhna, who came up with the idea of organising the fest, says, “We wanted to make this an intimate experience and so we chose to stage this fest in a community theatre.” Having staged the previous showcase in early September, Shobhna says the enthusiasm from the audience was the same the second time around. “More parents of the actors came to watch the plays this time,” she says, adding that it was a welcome change to see people from the older generations in the crowd.

A still from the play Two Soldiers
A still from the play Two Soldiers ( Photo: Rafique Ranjan )

Speaking about curating the six plays for the event, Vikram says, “Our theme was to showcase at least 50% of the performances that have diverse experiences. We wanted to commission new pieces that focused on lesbians and transgenders.” And Kiss Of The Spiderwoman, an ardent form of storytelling by one convict to the other; Graduation Day, the lives of two mothers and their effeminate but heterosexual son; Rapunzel 2.0, a gender-charged enactment of a girl reminiscing about her past; and Pehli Shaadi, a transgender’s penchant of her fantasy world; were four such plays that kept inclusivity in focus. On the other hand, Best Man’s Kiss, talks about a man who reminisces about his past, emotionally fraught relationship with his sister’s husband, while Two Soldiers, was about two cadets in the Indian army who grapple with intimacy in a disciplinary set-up and struggle to say goodbye when they’re given different postings.

Vikram Phukan
Vikram Phukan

With a crew strength of 20, the evening culminated with plays – that had poignant albeit relatable narratives – evoking a tear-jerking response from the onlookers. “We didn’t want to create narratives that spoke only about the plight of the LGBTQ+ community. We know that we have lives beyond that,” Vikram concludes.


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First Published: Sep 20, 2019 16:27 IST

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