The play Shikhandi addresses the issue of identity crisis among transgenders

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  15th May 2017 06:16 PM   |   Published :   |  15th May 2017 06:16 PM

A scene from the play

It’s the timelessness of Shikhandi that keeps him/her alive in people’s minds. Shikhandi, the character from Mahabharata, can neither be pinned as a man nor a woman. The character’s story manifests the identity crisis of transgenders. It’s this subject, that well-known theatre personality, actor, director and writer Faezeh Jalali has tried to interpret in her new play, Shikhandi, an NCPA production.
The story of Amba, who is humiliated by Bhishma and reborn as Shikhandi to avenge the insult, is adapted for contemporary audiences with tongue-in-cheek humour while retaining the essence of the conflict. Although Faezeh had written the first draft way back in 2010 for a solo performance, she didn’t execute it. “It was a 20-minute play, but I wanted it to be a longer version and after a few drafts, it was ready in 2015. It’s taken a while to bring it to stage. Getting a producer was a challenge,” says Faezeh over the phone from Mumbai. She adds, “But the issue about gender is not something new. It’s been there in my head for long. The advantage is that, with many others working on similar subjects, there’s a lot more awareness now.”
At crossroads
The play is the elemental story of Amba wanting to take revenge against Bhishma. Faezeh has deliberately stuck to the conclusion where Amba as Shikhandi is successful in avenging her disgrace. But through the play, the writer-director has tried to highlight the dissensions that mask gender talk and issues. “In the texts I read, there was no justification as to why Yaksha (another character from the Mahabharata) wanted the sex change with Shikhandi. Maybe Yaksha wanted to be a woman. Such parallel stories are explored in the play,” explains Faezeh.
Additionally, the story throws more light on the world of the ‘in-betweens’ or the transgenders. Though there have been individuals, thinkers and speakers who keep discussing the rights of these people, there’s little change in the way they are treated. Faezeh elaborates, “When we talk about gender, it’s intense. But when we talk about transgenders, it’s intense and dark. We’ve tried to explore this further — the prejudices of the characters are our prejudices too.” Certainly, the play attempts to be a social commentary on patriarchy, gender issues and current politics, and Faezeh is using theatre as a medium to initiate a conversation.
May 20-21. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar. Tickets (Rs 300) on