The Big Fat Company: Plus-sized theatre power

When The Big Fat Company (BFC) performed Head 2 Head, directed by Shabari Rao, (inspired by Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana) for the first time at KH Kala Soudha, a spectator jeered at one of the performers, shouting: “Tindi pota” (a person who loves food). When we meet Anuradha HR, Krithi Bettadh, Vidya Ulithaya and Sindhu Hegde, members of BFC, they laugh off that experience.

The Big Fat Company: Plus-sized theatre power

“We received feedback that was an eye-opening experience for us. Some members of the audience couldn’t believe we were enjoying our performance,” recalls Krithi.

Anuradha, who started BFC in 2017, adds: “I got a message saying, ‘you have ruined Girish Karnad’s play’. When, in fact, we had written to him, he gave us permission and was happy with how we played with Hayavadana. In theatre circles, there is a certain emotional attachment to this play as most of us have grown up watching it. And, the moment you break that there is resistance.” Sindhu is a part of WeMoveTheatre, another group in Bengaluru, but is proud to be a part of BFC.

The Big Fat Company: Plus-sized theatre power

In Head 2 Head, BFC performed some bits of Hayavadana. The play is a larger-than-life production, with life-sized masks and stunning costumes. “They don’t have the typical theatre aesthetics,” says Anuradha. The rest of the members speak about the kind of judgements they have received. But there is no stopping BFC, they have performed Head 2 Head for two years, including in New Delhi and Nepal.

Anuradha says: “There is no official membership in BFC, but we are around 13 to 15 people, who did the workshop together. We performed it with our own devised pieces.”

“The play addresses the question of where does our identity lie? In our mind or body? As plus-sized actors, we think it lies in our mind, but many think it is in our body.” And, this is precisely the perception BFC challenges. Before she joined BFC, Krithi was trying to reduce her weight for a serial. It was at that time she heard about BFC. “Once I joined here, I stopped trying to reduce my weight,” she shares.

The Big Fat Company: Plus-sized theatre power

Vidya says she was a street dancer at one point and chose theatre as a profession because it is her passion. “I attended a workshop by the National School of Drama in Bengaluru on theatre in education. I am working for TVS Academy now, I am into children’s theatre and also work for Silent Theatre Laboratory.”

In the entire ensemble, there is one male performer — Gowtham Upadhya. “As the founder, my challenge was for men to accept they are big. Most said I am not fat!” shares Anuradha.

The Big Fat Company: Plus-sized theatre power

Do men face the same judgements as women? Anuradha replies, “Big men are sidekicks of heroes who come in comedy roles. However, it is different for women; nothing can replace being ‘pretty’ because women are ‘objects of desire’.” Anuradha agrees plus-sized women in theatre don’t get enough lead roles as there is always a preference for conventionally ‘beautiful’ women.“This is a result of cultural-stereotypical aesthetics.

If there is a role we are looking at, we picturise the character based on the stereotypical construct of what he or she should look like.”

Dance maker, educator, and researcher Shabari, who has played an instrumental role in BFC, says she wants BFC to become obsolete at some point. “So that plus-sized actors can be chosen for roles such as Desdemona and Shakuntala. Anuradha adds: “Somebody once told me: ‘BFC should do something different. And I countered that with: ‘But why? We are just like you’.”

Head 2 Head will be performed on September 21 (3.30 pm and 7.30 pm) at Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar, Second Phase.

Watch | The Big Fat Company shows us theatre comes in all shapes and sizes

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Printable version | Jan 15, 2021 2:39:24 PM |

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