Not just Adam and Eve

‘Being Eunuch' explored the harsh realities of life as a transgender.

December 22, 2011 04:10 pm | Updated 04:10 pm IST

A scene from ' Being Eunuch', a play presented by Nishumbita Ballet and Theatre Group Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

A scene from ' Being Eunuch', a play presented by Nishumbita Ballet and Theatre Group Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

The story of the Indian transgender can be traced way back in history. Apart from playing significant roles in Indian epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, they were patronised by the Indian royalty for their loyalty and to protect the royal harems. Somewhere between history and modernity, they were relegated to the fringes of the existing society leading a deprived life.

Ostracism from all sections, poverty, prostitution and the plight of an Indian eunuch is not unknown and their life has been portrayed through documentaries, plays and films. Being Eunuch, a play staged by the city-based theatre group Nishumbita as part of the Hyderabad Theatre and Rock Music Festival in association with Samahaara, explored that aspect of a transgender life about which very little is known. The internal politics, the power play and the feudal rules and dynamics of the guru-chela relationship that exist in the eunuch community was explored in detail through the play.

The play was successful in portraying not just the harsh realities of the transgender community but managed to shed light on the traditions, rituals and the internal hierarchies that govern their community. Their devotion towards Iravan who sacrificed his life to ensure the victory of the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra war is a significant part in understanding their history. The play also manages to break existing stereotypes by portraying the characters in their vulnerable feminine state instead of the overt display of sexuality which the members of the community are known to exhibit for the benefit of their trade. Their maternal instincts and the symbolic dichotomy of their lives were sensitively explored through the play.

The story explores the life of Bansi, who is unable to fit in his family and society and is accepted under the under wings of Shanno Nayak, leader of a transgender group . Shanno Nayak has created a world where her chelas are forced to live by the rules set by her. The transformation of Bansi to Rani and then Mona was poignant through the performance of the ritualistic nirwaan (castration) done to be declared a ‘true hijra.' There were numerous sub plots which added to the duration of the play and proved to be a digression on certain occasions. However, the play ended on a positive, where under the leadership of Mona, this group of eunuchs take the road less travelled and establish themselves into respectable professions.

The performances were impressive and a lot of attention was given to depicting the body language and makeup. The choreographed movements added symphony to the stage presence. The male actors should be lauded for their brave attempt in playing the role of atransgender.

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