Mandeep Raikhy’s last dance piece, A Male Ant has Straight Antennae, was one of the artistic expressions to emerge in the months following the Delhi gang rape of 2012. The inherent ideas of gender hierarchy in the Capital, complicated by parliamentary politics, have shaped
Raikhy’s own views about sexual identity and rights. His work is, consequently, challenging. A Male Ant has Straight Antennae was an exploration of “singular perspectives on the male body and its moorings”. Queen-Size, Raikhy’s new piece, is an invitation to enter the bedroom of two men — dancers Lalit Khatana and Parinay Mehra — and become an audience to their intimacy. The piece is non-durational and non-linear, with the dancers playing out their lovemaking for two-and-a-half hours while audiences enter and leave at any point or move around to view the piece from different positions.
Excerpts from an interview with Raikhy:
Is Queen-Size your most political work?
It started with an article that the late filmmaker-activist Nishit Saran wrote in The Indian Express in 2000, titled “Why My Bedroom Habits Are Your Business”, against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality. I was already working on masculinity and, 16 years later, the article still seemed relevant. Queen-Size started from a political point of view, unlike my other work that were aesthetic preoccupations and, somewhere along the way, became political or acquired political imagery.
What were your ideas for Queen-Size?
My struggle was to find dance ideas around intimacy and explore ideas of proximity, gaze, sexual position, undressing, the detail of looking at somebody, touching and getting into bed. It was important that a private encounter between two people be brought into the public domain till it doesn’t need to be there anymore.
How did you express the shades of intimacy between two male bodies without making Queen-Size provocative?
I worked on images and fragments. In one case, I took off from the conjoined figure — a figure with four arms and four legs — and showed it as dancers connected groin to hip, one dancer walking on his hands, like a man-horse of mythology. This was to move away from a literal or dramatic storytelling and make the piece a physical construction for the imagination. Apart from the dancers, the piece also features a charpai that adds to the sound design.
The khaat or charpai becomes the third dancer. It stops the piece from becoming a city affair. Lalit (Khatana) lives in a Haryana village and I saw a charpai in his house. I thought that it may be a good thing to try out. I realised that Lalit knows how to make a charpai and he made the one in the piece.
24, Jor Bagh, a private home with a garden, is an unconventional and multi-facted performance space. How have you designed this piece for such a venue?
I thought that people could enter a room as if they were entering a bedroom. The late comers could stand outside and look through the window. It would have a sense of voyeurism and question censorship — watching people watching other people watching a sexual act.
Queen-Size will be staged from May 27 to 29 at 24, Jor Bagh. To register, email email@example.com or call 9971406113. This performance is for 18 years and above
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