On stage, the stories of nine transwomen

'Nava’, a play that explores their lives through the navarasas, will be staged in the city on November 30

‘Nava’ premiered at Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival, earlier this month.

It is not often that you get to see a performance by transwomen. Dramanon and Aravani Art Project have come together to stage ‘Nava’, on November 30 at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm at Ranga Shankara. It premiered at the Ranga Shankara Theatre festival, earlier this month.


Sharanya Ramprakash

 ‘Nava’ is a devised performance that explores the stories of nine urban transwomen through the nine ‘rasas’. Directed by Sharanya Ramprakash, the play interrogates what ‘performance’ means as the actors have never performed on a theatre stage before.

However, they understand and perform in diverse ways in their lives. In an interview with Metrolife, Sharanya shares how the idea took seed and some memorable moments.

Why did you choose the topic of ‘Nava’ or nine?

The play was the result of a collaboration with Aravani Art project and the transwomen they work with. The devising process for the play began with questioning the idea of performance itself. The actors of this play have never been on stage before, and have been excluded from the mainstream idea of stage and theatre. Yet, they understand performance. We wanted to bring stories, bodies, voices that have been willfully ignored and

intentionally unheard to occupy the center stage. Through the six months of working together, sharing space and stories the idea of ‘Nava’ developed.

What were the challenges involved in executing this project?

The challenges were several, but so was the joy. To give you an example, finding a rehearsal space where nine transwomen can rehearse was in itself a challenge.

The script for the play was not done through writing, but through WhatsApp voice notes, since not all actors can read or access written scripts. People who identify as trans are highly vulnerable to several marginalisations and societal violence. In spite of these challenges, the actors found time and strength to rehearse, come together and create a performance. This play is a hard-earned, beautiful act of courage and resilience.

What kind of problems related to transwomen are you highlighting in this performance?

The performance doesn’t just focus on problems but also on their whole lives—their joys, fears, likes and dislikes. There is strong dissent in the performance, through which, we highlight their strength, emphasise our shared humanity and collective responsibility.

What were the behind-the-scene moments that have remained with you?

The play had its premiere as a curtain-raiser for this year’s Ranga Shankara’s Theatre Festival on November 5. The performer’s families, neighbours and friends who had never been inside a theatre before, came to watch the play and saw the actors receive a standing ovation in a packed hall. The stories the actors shared with me, of how differently people spoke to them post the performance and how their own families and friends now understood them better, will remain with me for a long time.

Play details

Nava will be staged in Kannada with English summary titles on November 30 at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm at Ranga Shankara. Directed by Sharanya Ramprakash, the play is presented by Dramanon, Bengaluru in collaboration with Aravani Art Project. Tickets priced at Rs 200 are available on www.bookmyshow.com. For details, call 9945281772.

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