Trans Art Festival: Beyond gender
- Satish Suri
Photos; Shandilya Srivatsa

September 9, 2016

The rhetoric, “Art has no barriers and no gender” was loud and clear, but it took the conviction and courage of Shandilya Srivatsa of the International Arts and Cultural Foundation to provide  the dispensation for the transgender community to showcase their skills at the National Gallery of Museum and Art in a three day festival (July 29-31, 2016) in Bangalore.

The program unique in its concept and the first of its kind in the country opened with singing by the Jogathas in their own inimitable style and rhythm.Their music in praise of Goddess Yellama had a timbre of its own, rustic in its flavour and peppy in the soundscape it generated. Manjamma Jogitha and Ramakka Jogitha and their troupe rejoiced in their fervour and devotion as they sang and enthralled the audience. This was followed by brief introductions of the dancers Malika Pannikar (Singapore) presenting a Bharatanatyam piece, Lakshya (Kerala) a Kuchipudi item and Varsha Anthony (Malaysia) a Mohiniattam item.


The second day of the festival witnessed a Kuchipudi performance by Varsha  who began with the traditional Ranga puja and followed it with articulating her skills in “Gajavadana beduve,” a Purandaradasa composition describing the many features of the decoration of Ganesha. A javali “Parullanna mata namma vaddu” provided her with the opportunity to explore her skills in abhinaya. She concluded with the traditional tarangam proving beyond doubt both her dancing and histrionic skills.

Lakshya trained in Kalakshetra presented a few film based songs in Bharatanatyam with a lot of vitality and expressive gestures. Malika Pannikar’s Mohiniattam piece was a Devi kriti wherein the many aspects of the devi and her avatars were explored in all its entirety with grace and finesse complimenting her accomplishments and training in this field.

Malika Pannikar



Narthaki Nataraj

The concluding day began with the screening of a film “Naanu Avanilla Avalu” dealing with the many trials and tribulations of the transgender community. The  finale to this festival was provided by the celebrated artist Narthaki Nataraj who in a scintillating performance proved that art is beyond gender.The sollukattus in Hamsadhwani raga and khanda chapu tala set up a vibrant note for the viruttam that followed dedicated to Rajarajeswari Devi,wherein intricate mudras were used to define the invocation of the Devi in the Srichakra. She followed it with a varnam “Thiruve thirumagale” set in Ragamalika and adi tala, exploring the many aspects of Ashtalakshmi and their attributes.Taking a leaf out of Sankaracharya’s Kanakadhara Stotra, Lakshmi is depicted as an icon of karunya as she comes out of the churning of the ocean with an overtone of subtlety and refinement.

The Purandaradasa composition “Entha celuvage magalanu kottanu girirajanu nodamamma” provided the artist with the opportunity to display her abhinaya skills. Narthaki concluded with a thillana, a composition of Arunagirinathar which had all the markings of accomplishment and commitment of an artist who stood to challenge the discrimination of society and to rise in shining glory.The performance was embellished by excellent music with Lata Ramchand (vocal), Kuyil Mozhi (nattuvangam), Narayanan (mridangam) and Srilakshmi (violin). Narthaki Nataraj in her concluding remarks after her performance said it is the first time in the country that such a festival has been organised and looked forward to its continuing presence.

The festival struck a chord of empathy with the print media providing extensive coverage all over India and some parts of the world and Lakme taking cognisance provided a photo shoot of the artists. Whether this will translate into more opportunities for the transgender community is a matter of conjecture which only time can tell.

Bangalore based Satish Suri is an avid dance rasika besides being a life member of the Music and Arts Society.