Saggherr Loadhii, who has written and directed Hijda, which takes a closer look at the lives of the transgender community, talks about his inspiration for the play.

Hijda, a Marathi play, written and directed by Saggherr Loadhii, won best play, director, set, lights and make-up at Rajyanatya 2013, first round. Despite the acclaim the play received, it has been mired in controversy, facing opposition from a section of the hijra community in Pune. “The first performance was in Pune in August last year. It was houseful. About 60 per cent of the audience was from the community; they were moved by the play,” says Saggherr, an evening before his play was performed at CGK Rastriya Rangothsava, held this month.

It took Saggherr a year to write the script. “I researched and spoke to transgenders from Mumbai and Pune belonging to different backgrounds and age groups. Most of them felt sad about leaving their families, which I have incorporated in the plot. I have made the play as human as possible.”

Hijda centres on the lives of two characters, Dimple and Kiran, who have different views on their identity.

“Dimple’s character is inspired from a true story. She is clear she wants to be castrated, she is clear she wants to be a hijra. I wanted to explore what it means to be a man or to be a woman. Is being a transgender only about the body? Then I created Kiran, who wonders ‘if I wear a sari, do I become a woman? Isn’t it about the inner being?’ Kiran, unlike Dimple, doesn’t want to be in the community. She follows the conventions of the community at first, but she decides to live life on her own terms and returns to her mother.”

There are other characters who move in and out of the narrative. “One of the characters is Farida. She is the guru, who despite being a transgender rejects its tradition. ”

It was after the second performance, that Saggherr and his troupe received threats and were asked not to stage the play.

“Some members from the community asked me to change the part where Kiran returns home, they said ‘what if people are inspired by this?’ They objected to the use of the language. There are also a lot of slangs and swear words in the play, they were upset with this too, saying that they don’t use abusive language. I told them, how many of you can really say you don’t use such language? While a powerful guru in Pune told me the play portrays the truth, another well-known hijra leader liked the play, but asked me to change the ending and the language.”

Ever since, Saggherr has had to take police protection to stage the play. “Volunteers from Akhil Bharatiya Natya Parishad helped us. We did our third performance, but the situation is still tense for us in Pune.”

But it wasn’t as though Saggherr did not reflect on whether his play was controversial or not. “We watched the video to see whether there was anything objectionable about it. We showed it to social activists, we showed it to people in theatre, they said there was no problem with it.”

He received positive audience responses too. “An elderly lady from a conservative background came up to me after the play and told me after all these years, I realised they are human beings.”