An acknowledgment of the feminine is not simply to categorize oppression but to confront the patriarchy that exists within us. The festival looks at the masculine and feminine, operational in different degrees, across history and memory.

EQUAL dreams of an interdependent world.
We are not the same, do we recognize the difference between us?

EQUAL listens to experiences, generation after generation. Is history destined to repeat endlessly?

EQUAL is a provocation, to challenge our prejudices, in what we do and what we witness. Are we really prepared to enter an equal world?

EQUAL will features performances that portray masculine and feminine impressions emerging from memory, violence, and lived experiences. Travelling across musical landscapes, the Mehfil sessions carry the listener into worlds suppressed and transformed.
Panel discussions will explore the censored body and the role of oral histories in contemporary times.
Threshold/Chowkat/Hosalu, a visual exhibition will bring to the fore different forms of resilience, in the private and public realm.

This festival is presented by Ranga Shankara in consultation with Maraa.

Keynote Address

Aruna Roy
Social Activist,
Named among 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine, 2011

Sat, 14 Septemper, 2019
11:00 AM


The body becomes the site of resistance, patience, desire, and memory. Four performances that reveal the inherent and persistent inequalities that surround us. The plays urge us to rethink and shift our perceptions of an equal world.

All the plays draw attention to fault lines within the practices of equality in society. We hope the performances allow you to reposition yourself amidst these multiple realities.

Aurat! Aurat!! Aurat!!!

Fri, 13 Sep
7:30 PM (ticketed)
Hindustani, 110 mins
Based on stories by Ismat Chugtai
Director: Naseeruddin Shah
Motley, Mumbai

An all-female cast enacts selection from Ismat Chughtai’s autobiography, and three other writings (Ek Shauhar Ki Khaatir, Aadhi Aurat Aadha Khwab, and Soney Ka Anda), which are essays rather than stories, reflecting Chughtai’s abiding concern for the state of womanhood, her impatience with empty rituals and her anger at the condescension women are subjected to. Ismat Chughtai's spirit is a fierce reminder of the timelessness of the women’s struggle. Motley's Aurat Aurat Aurat brings to light Ismat's stories that treat masculinity with amusement, displaying compassion for the oppression men and women face. 

Bhagi Hui Ladkiyan

Sat, 14 Sep
7:30 PM (ticketed)
Hindustani, 60 mins
Devised by the children of Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti
Director: Dhwani Vij
Aagaaz Theatre Trust, New Delhi

These stories that begin on a random day are first-hand retellings of day-to-day life in Nizamuddin Basti. The spectator is invited to enter the performer’s world through the everydayness of the narrative. The stories emphasize how gender and sexuality play out in the lives of the four actors. Conversations about family, trust, consent, personal space, and gender dynamics begin to surface. The performance attempts to highlight the contrast between the confining yet comfortable quality of the home space and the liberating aspects of the outside world. The stories told, of course, change and evolve with the journey of the performers through time. Subversion plays out in daily life and lived experience. Bhaagi Hui Ladkiyan highlights the confining yet comfortable quality of home against the freedom of the outside world. Performed by adolescent girls from the Nizamuddin Basti in Delhi, these stories speak to the confusions and desires of growing up.

Freedom Begum

Sun, 15 Sep
3:30 PM (ticketed)
Multi-lingual, 70 mins
Playwright: Rumi Harish
Director: A Mangai
Raahi, Bengaluru

Can a rumour challenge official histories in a city? Begum's presence is held most closely by those who struggle to find space in a gentrified city. Freedom begum strings together different versions of the truth about a city to reveal the lives and relationships of its trans and working-class communities.
The story of Begum Mahal traces the life of a ‘Begum’ who owned a large property in Central Bangalore. A multi-story heritage bungalow called ‘Begum Mahal’ stood at the centre of the property, and around it lived a working-class community that depended on the Begum and her son. The rich narrative script reflects different perceptions about the Begum, her son and the Mahal. It also traces our journey in search of the Begum. The play not just the story of Bangalore’s transformation, but the story of every Indian city that has lost several open, inclusive spaces of expression, conversation, resistance, and freedom.


Sun, 15 Sep
7:30 PM (ticketed) 
Choreographed by Surjit Nongmeikapam
Nachom Arts Foundation, Manipur

Displacement leaves people exhausted by unanswered questions. Resistance lies simmering within our nerves. Presented by Nachom Arts Foundation, Nerves is a sensorial expression of the silent torture young boys endure, growing up in contested landscapes.
‘NERVES’ is a performance art piece, rooted from the expressions of the voiceless people from Manipur, a state nestled in the Northeast corner of India. Through the medium of our performance, we are trying to explore the lives that have been exhausted by the constant questioning of one’s world without any answer. In NERVES, we have poured ourselves over the dissonance that has been perpetuating through various issues of conflict and human rights violations in our homeland. In a land where we internalise our angst against this conflict and limbo of violence, we have been played over, like a ‘kangdroom’, the ball of a polo game, bound by the puppetry of power battles by the elites and authorities, in the course of which, indigenous peoples’ rights have been sold and marketed for profit. These frustrations are embodied into the piece, whereby, we as performers try to explore a new medium to express our emotions, our guilt, our helplessness, and our vulnerability. The silent torture that each of us go through, we have tried to appropriate that into our performance. Although the roots of this piece are grounded in Manipur and the Northeast of India, the struggle is universal; the struggle and the search for peace.


Travelling across musical landscapes, the Mehfils at Equal carry the listener into worlds suppressed and transformed. A spirit of resilience binds together the performers: challenging the architecture and access of traditional music, T.M. Krishna advocates inclusivity from within Carnatic music, as Pelva Naik challenges the masculine conception of form and performance, making her one of the few female performers of the Dhrupad. 

From the village of Bhagadia in Kutch, travel the Waii singers, bringing to life the poetry of Shah Latif through their 'Surs' of mourning, transgression, and remembering. Closer home, Narayanswamy and Uma sing songs of the soil, stirring voices of the Dalit community. 

The Mehfils will bind together histories and geographies of resistance, through form and content. Music slips under borders of language and identity, inviting the listener to be attentive to diverse imaginations and possibilities for a more equal future. 

Dhrupad by Pelva Naik
Dhrupad Vocalist - Dagurbaani

Fri, 13 Sep
9:30 PM (free)

Pelva Naik is a young Dhrupad Vocalist of the eminent Dagar School of Dhrupad Music. She is one among the few of the youngest generation of disciples of Legendary Dhrupad Vocalist Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar.

Pelva, in her music, endeavours to adhere sincerely to these traditional elements- so complete in themselves; at the same time, with the given liberty of this discipline, she strives to cultivate fresh characteristics that are personal and distinct.

For the last decade, she has travelled to perform and teach Dhrupad all over the globe. Apart from noted stages in India, Pelva has performed at a number of prestigious music platforms outside India such as:
- Theatre De La Ville, Paris
- Festival De Fes, Morocco
- Ravena Festival, Italy
- Darbar Festival, London

Waai music by Sumar Kadu Jat, Bhachaya Kadu Jat, and Sharif Allabhachaya Jat, Kutch

Sat, 14 Sep
9:30 PM (free)

Waai music by Sumar Kadu Jat, Bhachaya Kadu Jat, and Sharif Allabhachaya Jat, Kutch

Perhaps the only remaining proponents in India of the rarest of rare music genres - the Waai - Mitha Khan Jat, Sumar Kadu Jat, and Jaan Mohammad belong to the village of Bhagadia in Kutch, Gujarat, and are descendants of the Jat Muslims from Baluchistan. Traditionally cattle herders, their greatest inspiration has been Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a Sufi poet and musician who is believed to have invented the Waai. Today, they continue their singing and their quest for the ‘beloved’- “Bhitai’s poetry is about love no doubt; but it’s like a dagger. You have to be courageous to take him on,” says Sumar Kadu.

Carnatic Music by T M Krishna

Sun, 15 Sep
9:30 PM (free) 

Thodur Madabusi Krishna, who describes himself, quite simply, as ‘a singer’, is one of the pre-eminent vocalists in the rigorous Carnatic tradition of India's classical music. His tutelage is in this form that originated in the southern peninsula of the sub-continent nearly five hundred years ago. His training has placed him in the highest reaches of that time-honored system. He has, at the same time, come to occupy a markedly distinct place in the Carnatic universe.
Krishna’s first concert was at the age of 12, at the Spirit of Youth series organized by The Music Academy, Madras. Since then, he has travelled widely in India and abroad and given over 2000 concerts all over the world, performing regularly in major international music festivals across North America, Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
Over the last twenty-five years of his journey through music, Krishna has become both an acclaimed vocalist and a social commentator with a voice for the under-privileged and over-exploited. He sees his place among people, in institutions, in the family of humankind, as a gift given to him to sing his song, speak his thought, without stopping for applause.

Panel Discussions

Ranga Shankara’s artistic environment is the perfect setting for critical discussions and discourses on diverse topics. 

The Censored Body: Faith, Identity, and Desire

Sat, 14 Sep
12:30 PM (free)

Panelists: Kalki Subramaniam, Zeeshan Hasan Akhtar

Moderated by: Kirtana Kumar

The body is marked by individual and collective, by memory and experience. Some marks are stark and raw. Others more subtle, hidden and tentative. Some marks can be erased. Others become scars. If we were to sense censorship as a mark on the body, how does it make itself felt? On our bodies, personal and social, across history? Is it forceful or seductive, external or self-imposed? In this panel discussion, we reflect on three sites that often provoke censorship in current political times: faith, desire, and identity. If the body freely expressed itself, what would it look like in relation to the other?

Lend me your ear: Oral History and Memory as Evidence

Sun 15 Sep
11:00 AM (free)

Panelists: Du Saraswati, H S Shivaprakash, Manjula Hulikunte

Moderated by: Preethi Nagaraj

In Karnataka, as elsewhere across the world, communities, institutions, and individuals, have over the last several decades, turned to orality to recover a more intimate relationship with their pasts. Orality has amplified the margins, it tells us that no two voices are the same. Yet, we live in the time where the center continues to swallow the periphery, and where cultural uniformity is privileged and deployed to demonize the other. What stories do we need to tell for our times, who will recount them, and more importantly, will anyone listen? The panel will discuss what it could be to imagine and re-member history from a feminist lens and focus on stories that are systematically excluded from mainstream discourse and official history.

Other Events in the Foyer

The unique layout of the Ranga Shankara's spacious foyer with its winding staircase allows troupes and artists the freedom and opportunity to explore space in a truly creative way.

Love stories in the foyer 

Sat, 14 Sep
5 PM (free)

Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.

Love is an intoxicant. It will always threaten the sober.
When public spaces are surveilled,
When love breaks in and out of institutions,
When lovers are watched with close scrutiny.
And families and children have different aspirations.

Love stories have their beautiful and macabre sides.
Hidden loves, runaway loves,
moral and immoral loves, difficult loves.
A park bench is an imaginary place to let go, to feel a sense of comfort and to share your thoughts on love openly.

We invite you to tell a love story on this park bench. We will tell a few stories, and then the bench is open for anyone to tell their story.

Poems of Love and War

Sun 15 Sep
12:30 PM (free)

Poems of Love and War: We are living in disquieting times. Every known frame of understanding – be it gender, caste, community, or nation – is being manipulated for political gain. In the name of nation and national security, the founding principles of our democratic country, nourished by and nourishing the essential diversity of our social and cultural world, are being rendered irrelevant. Poetry has its own quiet way of refracting and responding to these realities. Despite coercive structures, human imagination has always found safe spaces to aspire and strive for common humanity. We believe that poetry captures in whispers the myriad possibilities between faith and doubt, hope and despair, human greed and resilience. The specific focus of the poetry panel is, as the title suggests, to listen to and discuss poetry that speaks to our present sense of crisis.

Panelists: Ayaz Rasool Nazki, Sumana Roy, and Tenzin Tsundue

Songs from the Soil

Sun, 15 Sep
5:30 PM (free)

Narayanswamy and Uma, along-with renowned poet and writer Kottigahalli Rammiah, have been unearthing histories and experiences of the Dalit community in Karnataka. A quarry worker, Narayanswamy’s songs were born as he cut stone, echoing the struggles of workers across history. Uma, a popular face in various social movements, highlights the voice of the Dalit woman, often invisible in her violence and resilience. Drawing from myth and folk, their songs from the soil express the anguish, pain, and anger of a community, over histories and generations.

Visual Exhibition

ಹೊಸಿಲು / चौखट / Threshold
Hosilu in Kannada, Chowkhat in Hindi means threshold.
The exhibition is a gentle provocation to reflect on our position amidst others, in everyday life, over generations, as standing apart or belonging to in the here and now. It offers a way to remember and experience different versions of truth from both the masculine and feminine lens. Time is suspended. You are at the threshold now. Witness diverse perspectives on gender that stem from lived experiences, politics and world views, by paying attention to the damage and loss, pain and resilience, memory and amnesia, individually and collectively. Here, we are reeling from the urgency of creating categories or presenting boundaries, we hope the exhibit pushes you to engage, introspect and question our ways of seeing, hearing and feeling. We pull and push our thresholds in matters of love, faith and desire through acceptance and rejection - a perpetual negotiation. 'From the marginalization of gender to the direct participation of women; from the mocking of the other to the celebration of difference', Hosilu/Chowkat invites you to become aware of the step you take, because it affects everything around it. After taking this step, we hope you can imagine what it might actually mean to live in an equal world.

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