Shikhandi: A compelling tale about an unashamed goy-birl-whatever!

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you realise that theatre is definitely better than the movies. All of us know it, but very few of us are ready to accept it. Thank God, I realised it years ago and thank you Prithvi and NCPA for reminding me of the same over and over again.

Shikhandi is perhaps one of the earliest transgender humans in the history of mankind having origins in the Mahabharata. Writer-director Faezeh Jalali takes this character and carves out a funny and witty plot that leaves the audience thinking after watching her play that goes by the same name.

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The play features Mahnaz Damania in the lead as Shikandi along with Meher Acharia-Dar, Vikrant Dhote, Karan Desai, Nikhil Murali and Srishti Shrivastava among other actors. Now if you have no clue about the great epic, I’d suggest to at least know who is who, how are they related and what are they even doing here, because there is a lot of change of characters. Like Shrivastava is sometimes Amba, sometimes Draupadi and even a reporter at times. You really need brains to keep up with this one.

The use of the stage and choreography is impeccable. Kudos to the director for that. The acting by everyone is brilliant too (we shall come back to this). But what wins is the writing. The use of comedy to portray an issue as strong as the discrimination against the LGBTQ community is worth a praise. The dialogues, the narrative technique are all spell bound!

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The acting, as mentioned, is brilliant by all. But, of course, we have our own biases. I have mine towards Mahnaz Damania and Srishti Shrivastava. I haven’t witnessed any works of the former, but have always been a fan of Shrivastava, specially after this:

Shrivastava’s comic timing and dramatic effect are all praiseworthy. It is, perhaps, safe to say that she is an actor as fine as Nimrat Kaur or Kalki Koechlin, both of whom have been theatre actors themselves.

If you haven’t watched Shikhandi yet, you definitely should catch it at the NCPA, Mumbai.