Upcoming performance in Mumbai to explore the idea of gender and sexuality

Nov 09, 2017, 09:05 IST | Shraddha Uchil

What does it mean to be a certain gender? And what if your interpretation of gender is not in sync with what society expects? This weekend, head to Harkat Studios for Me & The Other 2, which brings together performances that explore the idea of gender. "The problem with these hot-button issues is that because we read so much about them online, we get desensitised and do nothing to help the cause. This is our attempt to get the conversation out of the Internet and into a physical space, where it can make a real impact," says Michaela Strobel of Harkat Studios.

Painting of Shakti Kapoor
Painting of Shakti Kapoor

The show will feature artistes from different fields, who will share their interpretation of gender through music, dance, stand-up comedy, storytelling and art. The line-up includes singer-songwriter Alisha Pais, writer Aditi Mediratta, speakers Harish Iyer and Urmi Jadhav, artist Mili Sethia, comedian Navin Noronha, and Dancing Queens.

ON: November 11, 7.30 pm
AT: Harkat Studios, Bungalow 75, JP Road, Aram Nagar Part 2, Versova, Andheri West.
LOG ON TO: bookmyshow.com
ENTRY: Rs 413

Mili Sethia
Mili Sethia

'I'm trying to find the queerness in masculinity'
Towards the end of 2015, graphic designer and artist Mili Sethia started a project called Esqueer, where she took embarrassing photoshoots done by 'macho' Bollywood actors of yore and reimagined them. "This was the time when that picture of Shakti Kapoor lounging around almost naked had resurfaced on the Internet. We were talking about it at work, and my boss said, 'All I want is an oil painting of him hanging above my bed.' It was a joke, but I thought, why not?"

Sethia went on to create a series of such paintings, featuring everyone from Jackie Shroff to Aamir Khan, and 'queerifying' the images in the process. She says, "The idea is to question the normal idea of masculinity and how men are perceived. I found it fascinating that these stars, who were icons of their time, didn't find it the least bit embarrassing to pose for such pictures. And if they weren't afraid to be themselves, why should anybody else?" At the show, Sethia will exhibit the series, in addition to being part of a live art performance. "I will be painting each of the performers as they take the stage, and it will come together as a series at the end."

Harish Iyer plays a woman. Pic courtesy/QGraphy
Harish Iyer plays a woman. Pic courtesy/QGraphy

'Feminism does not equate to male-bashing'
Motivational speaker and social activist Harish Iyer says it's important to talk about gender, sexuality and patriarchy, but it needs to be done in a way that isn't intimidating. "There is a need to declutter the jargon that surrounds these topics. If not injected with a dose of humour, we end up sounding preachy," he says. At Me and the Other 2, Iyer will talk about feminism and what makes someone a feminist. "You don't need to be a woman to be one. Men can be feminists, too. At the same time, not every woman is a feminist," explains Iyer.

He adds that he will also be addressing the negativity that surrounds the term. "Feminism is often taken to mean male-bashing, whereas it's about equality, and taking affirmative action to get women to a point of equality. The spirit of feminism is not to label all men as bad, and to actually engage in a conversation with men, as opposed to speaking at them," he adds.

Navin Noronha
Navin Noronha

'There aren't too many LGBT comics here'
Stand-up comedian Navin Noronha came out of the closet in his very first stand-up act, back in 2012. "It was at an open mic at The Hive. I was terrified, but when I was done, people started applauding," he recalls. Over time, all his pieces have come to include his personal experiences, and at the show this weekend, you'll catch him at his best. He shares, "It's difficult being a queer stand-up comic. I'm trying to normalise the conversation, which not many comics are doing. It doesn't always go well, though. I've had organisers come up to me and say, 'Can you not talk about being gay?'"

That said, he admits people are more comfortable with the topic now. "I even met a BJP member at my show once, and he said he really enjoyed it."

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