Tuesday, April 05, 2011


Natarang is set in the world of tamasha , a popular style of theatre in Maharashtra with large doses of ribaldry, suggestive songs and dances. Guna Kagalkar (Atul Kulkarni) is a patron of the form, although he is barely making ends meet to support his family. When he decides to start his own tamasha group, Guna begins rehearsing his dream role of a king.
Guna gradually realises that the group needs a woman performer. Nayana (Sonalee Kulkarni) is willing to perform with the group provided they find her a nachya. A nachya plays the effete transgender sidekick to the leading lady in the tamasha and brings in the laughs. With nobody else willing, Guna reluctantly agrees to play the nachya. In a poignant scene, Guna sheds tears of helplessness in the pouring rain as he wears the king's garb for the last time. His training begins in earnest and the man who was built like a bull becomes a slender waif.
Once the group is finally off the ground and begins to tour villages, Guna faces fresh challenges. As he plays a nachya, his perceived indeterminate sexual orientation is cause for much mean humour and sexual advances.
Guna then decides to use tamasha as a medium of change. He picks the role of the legendary warrior, Arjuna who took on the form of a transgender Brihannala to avoid being recognised during exile. But Guna is raped, ironically when he is dressed to play the virile Arjuna.
When all his ties, including familial unravel, Guna realises that he now has nothing to lose, and begins anew pushing the boundaries of the art form.
Natarang won the National Award for Best Marathi film in the year 2010.
An edited version appeared in Culturama's April 2011 edition.

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