ada: art-desire-activism

ADA is an on-going arts series that encourages conversations on sexuality, desire, and gender expression through provocative and eye-opening media such as theatre, dance, poetry, and visual arts.

The Hunger Artist


Inside a steel cage, the hunger artist makes a living by fasting. Outside, we, the well-fed, watch on. This is the story of cotton pickers, the story of the great fast, the story of anonymous childhoods. The real story of White Gold. A fruitless story.


Inspired by Franz Kafka’s chilling short story by the same name and Namdev Dhasal’s masterpiece poem ‘Bhook‘ (hunger), The Hunger Artist is a moving portrayal of the agrarian crisis, the idea of Spectatorship and ultimately the state of physical and psychological hunger as the modern human condition.

Directed By: Gurleen Judge
Performed By: Mandar Gokhale
Choreographed By: Surjit Nongmeikapam



‘Allegedly’ is an interactive play that constructs the story of the grey areas of consent, legal definitions and loopholes, the practice of ‘stealthing’ (rape-adjacent, as mentioned by Alexandra Brodsky) and attempts to navigate the justice system. It falls in the category of devised theatre, allowing the audience to enter into a dialogue.

Performers: Mallika Taneja and Shena Gamat

Performing the Goddess: The Chapal Bhaduri Story


Chapal Bhaduri alias Chapal Rani or Queen Chapal, leading lady of Bengal’s traditional folk travelling theatre-in-the-round, the Jatra, spent his life playing female characters. Until history changed tradition and women began to play female roles themselves. Out of work, ageing, he turned to a new livelihood: that of playing Sitala, the dreaded goddess of pox and disease, in dramatized performances of the goddess’s sacred saga.

Directed by Naveen Kishore, this intimate video biography brings you face to face with a unique individual, reminiscing about the world of Jatra, discussing what it meant to be a woman night after night, talking for the first time of the woman inside his male body, of troubled sexuality, of a long domestic partnership with his older lover,

of the essential loneliness of living as a human being on the edges of conventional society – and showing how he metamorphoses into the goddess in order to perform her story. In the process we get a fascinating view of the professional Jatra, an integral part of the people’s culture in Bengal.


In-depth interviews, extracts from milestone fragments of Jatra plays, the makeup process that metamorphoses a man into a goddess, and documentation of the play on the goddess, provide you with a rare entry into an unusual world, and a close look at Chapal Bhaduri’s life and work.

Contempt: A Theatrical Rendition of the Section 377 Hearings

ADA_Contempt_ 377

Contempt brings into focus legal practice, institution and discourse as it meets the lived experiences of individuals identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). As a performance, it confronts the language of the law, based on and echoing the existing transcripts in the Suresh Kumar Koushal versus Naz Foundation case. Over a period of two months in 2012, the Supreme Court heard arguments on a matter where it ultimately criminalized the intimate lives of LGBTQ individuals.​


This production responds to the many ways in which contempt – as a tangible social practice – materializes as a daily encounter and a lifelong challenge that informs this most personal of choices both within and outside the courtroom.

Contempt has been written and directed by Danish Sheikh. The production premiered with a reading by the Floating Space Theatre Company at the British Council in Colombo in 2017 and was longlisted for the Hindu Playwright Award the same year. It has subsequently been selected for the “Queer Plays from around the World” Festival to be conducted by the Arcola Theatre in London in March 2018.​

Dohri Zindagi (Two Lives)

ADA_Dohri Zindagi

A production based on well-known Rajasthani writer Vijaydaan Detha’s story titled Dohri Zindagi (Two Lives), it deals with ideas of queerness and sexuality transcending the norms of gender and marriage. It is a love story between two women that survive an attempt of honour killing because they are defying social norms and go on to lead their lives on their own terms, as a couple.

The play is devised and performed by Mumbai-based actors Neha Singh and Bhumika Dube; directed by Gurleen Judge. The production received the prestigious gender bender grant from the Sandbox Collective, Goethe Institut Bengaluru and The Ladies Finger in 2016. They were also selected to perform at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFOK).

Femme in Public

ADA_Femme in Public

What feminine part of yourself did you have to destroy in order to survive in this world? At what point does femininity become synonymous with apology? Who hurt the people who hurt you? Alok Vaid-Menon is trying to figure it out. Join them for an evening of poetry, stand-up comedy, drag, and more as they take their audience on an emotional roller coaster all the way from the personal to the political.


ADA_Queen Size

As our inaugural event in the ADA series, we are hosting a performance of Queen-size, a protest-performance in response to the sexual limitations of Section 377 of the IPC, by Gati Dance Forum (in collaboration with Sandbox Collective). Queen-size is a choreographic exploration that takes the form of a detailed study of the intimacy between two men. Played out on a charpoy, the duet examines the nuts and bolts – carnal, mechanical and emotional – of a close encounter between two male bodies.

In making such an encounter visible, Queen-size poses questions around spectatorship, privacy and dissent. The work has been triggered by Nishit Saran’s article titled “Why My Bedroom Habits Are Your Business,” which was first published in the Indian Express in January 2000.