Daya Gayathri would have spotted the familiar faces among the audience. Playing a character on stage, a character not unlike herself, she would have feared what was to come. But when the play got over and everyone clapped, Daya’s parents simply walked to her and told her the words she had longed to hear – they accept her. As the trans woman that she is.
The fourteen others with her – all of them from the transgender community – watched in joy as their friend was taken home, to join college and lead the life she desired. Not a life all of them could enjoy. Yet.
The play came through Dhwayah Arts and Charitable Society, which is working for the upliftment of transgender people in Kerala. It is the first play coming from the first transgender theatre group in the state, formed early this year – Mazhavil Dhwani.
They have played it five times so far, the last one at the Ganesh Auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram, on Sunday.
“That was the fifth show of 'Parayan Maranna Kathakal'. We have played it four times before that, the first was at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala in Thrissur. That’s when Daya’s parents watched the play and came forward to take her home,” says Sheethal Syam, Dhwayah’s president and one of the actors in the play.
They got their training from Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy. There was no written script. Their lives became the script.
People came to watch their stories, listen to them. But after their fourth performance at the Fine Arts Hall in Kochi, Kerala was struck by floods. They lost their properties in the floods, and their many bookings had to be cancelled.
“So then we contacted Soorya Krishnamoorthy sir and he let us stage the play in his Ganesham Auditorium for free. We hope to recover our lost materials and also do something for flood relief,” Sheethal says. They have already contributed from Dhwayah an amount of Rs 50,000 to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund. Dhwayah had also been instrumental in coming to the help of their community members stuck in the floods. Now, they wish to help with getting new study material for the students who have lost them in the flood.
The play, directed by Chennai-based Srijith Sundaram, is also improving every time it is performed, Sheethal says. “None of us was familiar with theatre. But we wanted to present through the play the problems faced by gender and sexual minorities in different areas – education, health, law, relationships. It is a question to the society.”
But problems just don’t go away. The group has also lost a member, but not to floods. Parents had blackmailed and taken that member forcibly away. Perhaps if they had watched the play once, they might have changed their mind, like Daya Gayathri’s family.