A question of identity

Ganesh Nallari talks about staging his play ‘Mudra’ at FTII, and addressing sexual orientation through dance

April 25, 2014 07:36 pm | Updated May 21, 2016 01:21 pm IST - Hyderabad:

Ganesh Nallari in a scene.

Ganesh Nallari in a scene.

At the stage of conceptualising his 12-minute short play titled Mudra , Ganesh Nallari felt the climax would be best conveyed through dance. His close friends weren’t sure. “ Dance kisko samajme aayega ?” they asked and felt it was better if he rewrote the climax with dialogues. “But being a trained dancer, I felt the climax would be best without words. If the audience is not able to grasp the proceedings, it means I have failed as a dancer,” says Nallari.

In fact, the climax turned out to be the highlight of the play when he first staged it as part of a competition hosted by Dramanon. The hushed silence in the hall was followed by a standing ovation and Ganesh Nallari had won over his friends too. Staged in Hyderabad thrice, Mudra will now be showcased at the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune, as part of the Prayatna Film and Dance Festival, 2014, on April 26; 7p.m.

As he packs his bags to Pune, Nallari tells us how Mudra took shape out of his own life. The play, starring Nallari and Pallavi Verma, narrates the story of a mother and son, both dancers. The mother had to sacrifice an active career in dancing owing to family responsibilities and finds happiness in her son being a dancer. Mudra touches upon the sniggers and rebuke a boy faces while honing his skills in dance and being in touch with his feminine side. Years later, he expresses his alternate sexuality to his mother through a mudra. “I pick up vermillion and turmeric, paint one half of my face in turmeric and another in vermillion and dance in front of the Nataraja statue to convey that I am ‘Arthanari’, a combination of Shiva and Parvathi,” explains Nallari, who has written, directed and designed costumes for the play.

His biggest reward was his mother standing behind him as he received congratulatory messages soon after the play and acknowledging that this indeed, was drawn from real life. “My parents are very independent and brought me up similarly. Every Sunday I go visiting them, I’d wonder if I should tell them about my sexual orientation. I didn’t know if they already knew it but there was always this urge to just say it,” says Nallari. Through his friends and cousins, Nallari learnt that his parents were under societal pressure to answer questions about his single status, and yet never passed on that pressure to him. “Only once my mother had raised the issue of marriage and one glance from me was enough for her to not broach the topic again,” says Nallari.

The play was born out of his need to express himself to his mother. “I was trembling and crying when I went back to the green room after the first performance. With each performance, I think I got better on stage,” he reflects.

Ganesh is a trained dancer and a dentist by education, though the world knows him prominently as a designer. “When I returned from Milan, I wanted to establish an identity for myself and focused on designing. Otherwise people would be confused about what I actually do,” he laughs. Having established himself as a designer, he took time out for theatre and dance. “It’s tough, when I have orders to cater to. So I began as and when I found time. Today if I am able to concentrate on design, theatre and dance, it’s because I have no personal commitments. I devote all my time to the creative arts,” he says.

Soon, Nallari wants to be a part of comedies as well.

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