As Pride month attracts to a shut, Narthaki Nataraj speaks about how dance healed her scars, which is why she believes that artwork can empower the transgender group

As Pride month attracts to a shut, Narthaki Nataraj speaks about how dance healed her scars, which is why she believes that artwork can empower the transgender group

It was the yr 2011. Dressed in a vibrant orange kurti and black leggings, Narthaki Nataraj walked into a Chennai cafe for an interview, alongside together with her  thozi (buddy) Shakti. She hesitantly ordered a chilly espresso, uncertain if she would love it. During the course of the dialog, one might sense her vulnerability and nervousness as she spoke in regards to the trauma of being genderqueer, and dealing with hate, rejection and mock.

Cut to June 20, 2022. As I enter Ezhilagam at Chepauk in Chennai, Narthaki Nataraj’s secretary ushers me into her workplace on the fifth flooring. Clad in a crisp pink cotton sari, there’s an air of confidence about her as she discusses the small print of a assembly together with her employees. She requests her secretary to get some tea. As one of many eight members of the State Development Policy Council, she now helps body social and cultural insurance policies. It is the primary time an artiste has been appointed on the advisory board.

From being pressured to depart residence on the age of 12 to fulfilling her dream of coaching in Bharatanatyam beneath guru Kittappa Pillai (who gave her the title ‘Narthaki Nataraj’) and rising to develop into a distinguished consultant of the Thanjavur bani to holding an influential place within the authorities, Narthaki Nataraj’s journey appears surreal.

Art as an anchor

“When I look again, I see myself trudging by means of a pitch-dark tunnel with no gentle in sight. The bitterness of the previous taught me to assemble my crumbling spirit to seek out myself past my non-binary id,” says Narthaki, explaining why she believes that dance is a invaluable area for gender exploration. “When I first went up on stage to carry out and heard the sound of applause echo by means of the corridor, I felt I used to be reborn. I ended viewing my physique as a jail. I discovered succour within the artwork, in having the ability to freely categorical each masculine and female feelings within the compositions.”

The dancer has been supporting younger members of her group, serving to them acquire dignity and acceptance by discovering a function in life. “Each certainly one of us is born with a talent, I just inform them to look inside. Feeling lesser or helpless will solely worsen our standing additional. Though its heartening to see the rising consciousness about gender points and folks popping out within the open about their sexual orientation, we have to amplify trans-voices to form a higher future for trans youth. We want to talk for ourselves somewhat than being spoken for. As a recognized title right this moment, I am cautious about selecting and supporting LGBTQ causes as a result of, typically, they’re extra about objectification and tokenism than reaching out genuinely to the group,” she says.

Narthaki Nataraj performing at the Music Academy in Chennai

Narthaki Nataraj performing on the Music Academy in Chennai
| Photo Credit: RAVINDRAN R

In 2019, Narthaki was awarded the Padma Shri — the primary trans lady to be bestowed with it In December this yr, she’s going to obtain the Nritya Kalanidhi award for the yr 2021 on the Music Academy, Chennai. In 2011, she was given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar. She can also be the recipient of Krishna Gana Sabha’s Nritya Choodamani and the Kalaimamani award.

To sensitise younger minds in regards to the transgender group, the Class 11 curriculum of the State Board has a chapter on her. The dancer is credited with coining the time period, ‘Thirunangai’ (divine lady), which she added as a prefix to her title. “The method we’re addressed in numerous languages — hijra and aravani — is extraordinarily regressive and derogatory. So I most popular to be known as Thirunangai. When former Chief Minister, the late M. Karunanidhi got here to find out about it, he ordered that the ‘others’ class beneath gender part in official paperwork needs to be changed with this time period. It was a nice transfer,” she says.

Narthaki has travelled to over 24 nations for performances and to conduct lec-dems. “Though I’ve had no formal schooling, I attempt to make up for it by studying extensively. I’ve a good assortment of books on Tamil literature. Earlier, I’d be embarrassed about not having the ability to converse in English however that in a method has pushed me to interact deeply with Tamil. Next week, I might be going to Nagapattinam to talk on the subject ‘Salangai pesum Sanga Tamil’ at a e-book honest,” she says excitedly.

While Narthaki says dance healed her scars, made her snug in her pores and skin and gave her the energy to face the world, she can also be conscious of the prejudices that also exist within the cultural area. From the surface, it appears receptive to the marginalised however doesn’t at all times mirror that progress and inclusivity in its method and perspective. “Often, my inventive achievements are seen by means of the gender lens. At cultural occasions, organisers and artistes typically introduce me as just a transgender Bharatanatyam artiste, which positively is not my solely declare to fame. It is hurtful.”

Narthaki waited for nearly a yr to realize entry into Kittappa Pillai’s gurukulam in Thanjavur. “I needed to show to him that I used to be not there to just search refuge from the large, dangerous world. I labored exhausting to realize experience within the kind and method. Every second of the 15 years spent coaching beneath him has been value it, giving me an id and displaying me the way in which ahead. Being recognised by the Music Academy is the excessive level of my profession. It feels so good to be a part of an embracing surroundings. I keep in mind once I walked as much as obtain the Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind, I silently thanked everybody who helped me perceive my value,” says Narthaki.

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