In response to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality in India, Queen-size is a choreographic exploration, choreographed by Mandeep Raikhy and performed by Parinay Mehra and Lalit Khatana.
The performance explores the intimacy between two men by examining the nuts and bolts — carnal, mechanical and emotional encounters between two male bodies.
The choreographed performance also questions spectatorship, privacy and dissent and has been triggered by Nishit Saran’s article titled Why My Bedroom Habits Are Your Business.
With a title that itself hints cheekily at queens and sizes, Mandeep Raikhy lets us in on the idea behind the entire concept. “In 2015, the year that saw scores of writers and artistes return their awards in protest against an increasingly intolerant right-wing government, I realised that our dance field was fairly unresponsive to it all. Dance in our country has historically been one of the apolitical disciplines owing much of its stagnation to the particular role it played and continues to play in the construction of our national identity,” says Mandeep who then came across Saran’s article and realised it was time for him to ask some questions of his own.
“Questions that could enable me to assert my identity as a queer dance-maker at a time of severe cultural censorship, was what inspired me to come up with this piece,” adds the choreographer who wanted to focus on love as much as sex, to construct a compelling argument against Section 377, and considered provocation the starting point of the work.
“I realised very early that the challenge for me was to find ways to propose, rather than provoke. Which is why the durational structure of the work allows the audience to enter, exit and re-enter when they like, emerged from these concerns,” explains Mandeep who believes the most challenging part was to find a balance between the political and aesthetic.
“To make sure that the work doesn’t just become a run-down performance with a singular message but an experience that opens up new possibilities of viewing, performing and making dance,” he adds.
The performance has been staged in 17 cities all over the country over the past four months and the response from non-metropolitan cities has been equally supportive.
“I have never heard a negative response from any of our audiences. People who usually don’t enjoy the piece just walk out in five to 10 minutes,” shares Parinay Menhra, one of the two dancers who has been performing for over 10 years now.
And what was the most appealing factor about the role he is playing, we are inquisitive to know? “A chance to work with Mandeep again. Plus, the concept and the way he put it across sounded very intriguing. But getting used to the demands of the work put upon us in the duration of the piece was quite a daunting task,” adds Parinay, about the piece which spans over two hours and has the performers improvising to keep the audience intrigued.
— The performance will be staged at Shoonya on March 17 and 18.