Bridging the gender divide

An unique initiative, photographer Srivatsa Shandilya is organising classical dance performance by transgender artistes

Published: 23rd July 2016 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd July 2016 12:38 PM   |  A+A-


He is an accredited photographer of the Department of Information and Publicity, Government of Karnataka. He has been freelancing for 20 years and won the Gourmand India Award for the Best Cook Book Photographer in 2007.

But what makes 46-year-old Srivatsa Shandilya the talk of the town is his role as an organiser of the Indian classical dance show, in which transgender artistes will perform. The three-day International Trans Arts Festival 2016 will kick-start from July 29 at Bengaluru’s National Gallery for Modern Arts. The festival will also showcase artistes from Malaysia and Singapore.

BRI.jpgThe artistes who will be performing are Narthaki Nataraj, a Bharatanatyam dancer and the first transgender to receive the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award; and Manjamma Jogithi, a Kannada Rajyotsava awardee with her 10-member team from the Jogappa community of Karnataka’s Bagalkot district. She will perform Jogithi Nritya and Choudike pada (sangeetha). “I am excited about the show. It seems that doors are opening for us,” says Jogithi. Lakshya, a Bharatanatyam exponent trained at the Kalaksheshtra, Chennai, and Vasuki Welknow, a dual voice light music singer based in Trichi, have agreed to participate. The list of performers also includes noted Singapore-based dancer Maalika Panicker and Malaysia-based Kuchipudi exponent Varsha Vardhanaa.

BRIDGIN.jpgThe festival will also feature music concerts, poetry recitals, drama and art exhibitions. Shandilya has also scheduled screening of National Award-winning movie Naanu Avanalla Avalu, directed by B S Lingadevaru, which is based on the life of a transgender.

So what made the photographer come up with this unique idea? He says, “It is a fruit of a coffee table discussion that created an uncontrollable desire in me to go ahead with the idea. We all talk of unity and love. Why can’t we implement it in our action and thought? The transgender community is still neglected in the society. We should not forget that they are one of us. People find it difficult to accept them. The art is an instrument of humanity. As an art lover, I feel it is time we thought broader and thought positive.”

What is interesting to know from Shandilya is that when he shared the idea with the artistes, the response from all of them was prompt and positive.

The Bengaluru-based photographer-turned-art connoisseur regrets on how the society is divided on the basis of socio-economic and cultural background. Before stepping into organising festivals, he made a mark in art photography. “Art photography is very fascinating. I enjoy capturing moods and emotions of the dancers. Photography plays a major role in the documentation of the art forms. I have worked for several government as well private organisations. These include assignments on various dance-related books.”

Shandilya took to photography at the age of 16. He got his first assignment in the year 1984. His first work of photography appeared on a magazine cover in 1985.

This is not for the first time that Shandilya is thinking out of the box. In 2012, he began to play host to cultural festivals with ‘unique’ and enterprising themes. For example, the All Women World Folk Art Festival organised in Bengaluru earlier this year showcased 18 varieties of folk arts.

At a time when the LGBT rights are drawing considerable attention, Shandilya, a diploma holder in engineering, believes: “It is time for action. I hope my attempt helps to bring about a difference in perspective and paves the way for some sort of a humanitarian change. What more would I wish if my thoughts could help others? Perhaps from now on other festivals would incorporate a slot for transgenders as well, perhaps they will be treated on the basis of their talent and not gender.”

At National Gallery for Modern Arts, Bengaluru, July 29-31


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