Event Review : Brihannala

Chennai-based performer Aniruddhan Vasudevan’s monologue mixes storytelling, spoken word, classical dance and music to explore the performance of gender and sexuality. As he performs Brihannala – it becomes a reference point for his own performance of gender, his desires and the questions that arise therein.

Last weekend, 3rd i’s Queer Eye brought to the Bay Area a performance by the chennai-based artist, Aniruddhan Vasudevan titled  “Brihannala”. This was part of a series of performances that I will address in a separate post.

Aniruddhan, an accomplished performing artist conceptualized this very unique blend of artforms  – An artful evening of Poetry meets Dance meets Spoken word meets Singing and quite a lot of interaction with the audience. If Aniruddhan’s graceful dance and androgynous dressing to imitate Brihannala was not enough for the audience to be glued to our seats, then there was his articulate expression of her feelings, the way he saw it.

As I understand,  Brihannala’s story is largely ignored in retellings of the great epic Mahabharatha or retold rather hurriedly. It is indeed very brave and creative of Aniruddhan to explore Brihannala’s character to this detail and that makes his performance original and one of a kind. When asked what inspired him to create this performance, he said


It was not one single point of inspiration. Personal experiences, my interest in myths, legends and mythologies, a general liking for storytelling – all of these were the motivations, I guess.

His command over english was impeccable and the performance was so evocative  it  left a lot of us teary-eyed and awe-struck. My personal favorite during this performance was Aniruddhan’s rendering of  a Subramanya Bharathiyar’s poem called Aasai Mugam (sung in Ragamalika I think) . Aniruddhan then went on to describe the hidden meaning behind these verses and the complications of translating such a complex piece of Thamizh poetry in English. Frankly, as a native thamizh speaker, I was ashamed that I did not know there could be a deeper meaning to those verses. But the culminating point for me was when Aniruddhan rendered one of my all time favorites, Irakkam Varaamal Povadhenna Karanam sung in Raag Behaag (and composed by Gopalakrishna Bharathi).

About Aniruddhan vasudevan

Aniruddhan is a queer rights activist from India in addition to be a performing artist of the fine art of Bharata Natyam. He trained with the uber famous Chitra Visveswaran and is a writer, a poet, a peer counsellor and an activist. Fluently bilingual in Thamizh and English, he has written for the Chennai-based queer blog, Orinam, in the past and while at Chennai also works with the Sakthi Resource center in addition to several others. He writes his own blog at “Some of us speak in Cliches. Some of us love” and can be reached at aniruddhan.vasudevan@gmail.com .

About the author


Rashmi grew up in India and now she enjoys her time living in one of the queerest places in the world. She started transitioning a while back and is gradually coming out to people she thinks are cool enough for her. She enjoys discussing any topic under the sun and has an opinion about anything and everything. She thinks of herself as someone who can only hold intelligent conversations with people, when in reality she is totally insane and crazy, not to mention she has been highly hormonal recently. *GRIN*