Transwoman theatre artiste Theatre

For an inclusive stage

Transwoman Harshini Mekala hopes her acting stint in ‘Badlav’ will transform her life

Of late, Hyderabad has been slowly and steadily making room for the queer community. Now, theatre heralds this inclusive environment by opening its space to a new artiste — transwoman Harshini Mekala who plays the role of Bindiya in Badlav a Hindi production. To be staged by city-based theatre group The Unknown Pen, the play written and directed by Amaan Ahmed revolves around the consciousness of a person and tackles it with a dose of existentialism, surrealism and absurdism. Having staged it twice so far, a show each at Phoenix Arena and Lamakaan, the team gears up for a third show, this time at Lamakaan, on February 6.

Amaan Ahmad

Amaan Ahmad   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Amaan breaks barriers as the play brings a bold story on stage; protagonist Gayatri likes her step brother Ramesh, who wants to transform into a woman — Bindiya. “Any individual is free to think and become what they want to be; why should society create hurdles,” asks Amaan whose search for a transgender to play Bindiya’s character led him to Harshini, a HR executive in Jones Long LaSalle (JLL).

A still from play ‘Badlaav’

A still from play ‘Badlaav’   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Harshini had shifted to Hyderabad from Mumbai only six months ago and found this opportunity a stepping stone to her acting dreams. After a month-long theatre training, Harshini honed her skills and gait, voice, eye movements and facial expressions. “Some people were intrigued watching her perform but no one knew she was a transwoman,” recalls the director. Appreciating her quick learning skills, Amaan remarks art should not have any restrictions. He says, “Art should be free and wild. I know many people who are homophobic and I want to to break that mindset and bring transgenders and drag queens on stage so that they too explore and learn.”

Three years ago Rammohan Holagundi of Nishumbita theatre group wanted to cast a transgender artiste in his play Life of a Hijra. “I didn’t find any transgender artiste,” he recollects. His actors transformed into four trans characters. The two-hour play traced the journey of a transgender person, the desires and dreams, and identity. “It portrayed raw emotions and showed how painful and difficult feelings are when a woman is trapped in a man’s body. Theatre in Hyderabad is opening up finally, and I am glad it is happening now.”

Harshini was eight when she realised she was in a ‘wrong body.’ Although her biggest support was her mother, she worried transgenders had a rough deal and their only livelihood would be through begging or prostitution. “She wanted me to live with dignity, so she even went against my farmer father to help me pursue post-graduation,” she says, adding that she studied as a male as colleges would not give admission to people like her.

After graduation, Harshini went to Mumbai with two transgenders but returned home in just three days as she couldn’t adjust to the demeaning lifestyle. With an aim to transform her life through studies and work, she enrolled in post-graduation and also worked as a lecturer for a while . Then she went to Mumbai again, this time to work with an NGO Triveni Samaj Vikas Kendra. With her savings and a loan, she got a sex reassignment surgery as well as a new identity with a changed PAN and Aadhar card. Explaining the difference between a a transgender and transwoman, she says, “Transgender is about gender identity whereas a transwoman gets a harmone replacement or sex reassignment surgery.”

In Mumbai, she tried modelling, acted in two short films Revenge and Growing India and was a Miss Transqueen India participant. “I was among the top six contestants and got Miss Beautiful Smile jury award,” she says. However, being a Telugu, she wants to be recognised in the Telugu land; hence she shifted to Hyderabad.

With dreams of being actress, she wonders if Telugu cinema directors or producers will ever give her a chance. “There are many examples of actors/actress donning the role of a transgender. If they can do it so convincingly, why can’r a transgender /transwoman play a female character?” she asks. “I struggled a lot in my village; I want to act in a movie to tell my life story.”

Life came a full circle when she recently visited her hometown for Sankranti. “People had seen my interview on YouTube and came to appreciate me; they were proud that I was inspiring many others and remarked that I look beautiful. I felt happy.”

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:28:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/transwoman-harshini-mekala-on-her-role-in-the-play-badlav/article30624252.ece

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