nikita maheshwary




‘Umrao & Me’ is an innovative lecture performance in which the artist shares the personal letters she wrote to Umrao Jaan Ada - the legendary 19th century ‘tawaif’ performer (courtesan) from India.

Inspired by the beautiful works of Zadie Smith, Siri Hustvedt, Saba Dewan, Ali Smith and Chris Kraus; the letters reflect on the shifting identity of the female performer over the past 150 years and tackle questions of agency, obsession, male & female gaze, morality, body shaming and politics of art.

Script & Performance: Nikita Maheshwary
Dramaturg: Paul de Bruyne

Duration: 40 minutes

Performed at: 
Korzo Theatre, The Hague, NL | 21 October 2018
Ashoka University, India | 13 November 2018
Shiv Nadar University, India | 15 November 2018
Moving Futures Festival, NL | 11 May 2019
CC Amstel, Amsterdam, NL | 14 June 2019
CC Amstel, Amsterdam, NL | 15 June 2019



The performance installation ‘While We Walk’ has been crafted by the extraordinary moments, anecdotes and city soundscapes gathered during the ‘walking conversations’.

While the walking conversations has kick-started an ongoing photo essay of how women map urban public spaces, the performance has tried to bring back into the proscenium space a story that encapsulates the colloquial similarities of the public life of the east and the west, layers of socio-cultural aspects and power politics of cityscapes.

Duration: 15 minutes

Artist’s Note

The process of creating this performance became a means to access, excavate, extract and present the myriad of impressions I collected over the months. The excerpts of the ‘walking conversations’ served as a starting point. All urgencies, desires, knowledge, emotions and expressions, stemmed from it. These were then compressed into layers to form the soundscape, script and visuals for the performance work.



Tujhko Banaya Gaya Hai Mere Liye (You have been made for Me) investigates the representation of women in Bollywood and Indian pop culture. It questions their objectification, the handed down warped codes of romance and the glorification of sexism in the mainstream that masquerades itself, sometimes as an innocent joke or gets etched in our heads as a catchy item song.

Set on the timeless, iconic romantic nazam from the 1976 Bollywood movie ‘Kabhi-Kabhi’, the piece borrows the movement vocabulary from the popular cultural image of a female and male body. It attempts to capture the varied gender equations, the society’s innate permissiveness towards the quintessential ‘chedkhani’ or eve-teasing and how this collective tolerance propagates and contributes to gender-related violence.

Direction: Nikita Maheshwary
Process Collaborators & Performers: Mahesh Saini & Nikita Maheshwary

Duration : 20 minutes

The work was performed in 5 alternative spaces in New Delhi:
NIV Art Gallery | 4 August 2017
Italian Culture Center | 5 August 2017
Gati Dance Forum | 6 August 2017
Studio Safdar | 11 August 2017
Downstairs S47 Studio | 2 September 2017

Link to an interview



This piece is called Autumn
by Nikita Maheshwary & Anubhi Jindal

The dance performance ebbs in the memoirs of an old woman’s last autumn. This work commissioned by 'The Chrysalis Project' Residency 2013, New Delhi.

Choreography: Nikita Maheshwary & Anubhi Jindal | Performers: Anubhi Jindal, Nikita Maheshwary & Ashwathy Manoharan/ Lara Saluja | Videography: Ashutosh Matela

Duration: 20 minutes