Friday, March 27, 2020

Laadli Celebrates the Power of Theatre

Swathi Chaganty

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” ― Oscar Wilde

This could not be further from the truth for us at Population First, for arts and theatre are some of the core tools of our outreach. Be it street plays in collaboration with Theatre of Relevance or college productions across the city of Mumbai on gender-based issues, school plays on sanitation in Shahapur Zilla Parishads or theatre workshops for our village level committees and health service providers in the past, have deeply affected the audience and the participants alike. For some, the plays left an indelible mark on the current state of affairs in the society while for some the art of acting and theatre as a tool helped understand their own role in the society and its development.

So, it was only logical progression for us to honour the art form itself in our Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity (LMAAGS).

And as the world celebrates this art form today, we thought of taking a trip down the memory lane, when Theatre became one of our major categories at the National LMAAGS.

Saat Teri Ekvees
In its 3rd season, Saat Teri Ekvees, a Manhar Gadhia Productions, has a new set of monlogues by women and has an underlying theme of “desire”. It explores narratives on Survival, Intimacy, Being Oneself, Motherhood, Love, To Be Born and Appreciation. Some stories evoke heart-warming smiles, others evoke a soul-searching silence but all makes one sit-up and notice a woman’s soul and situations. The play deals with women characters that have shown strength and courage to establish their individuality in an unsupportive social structure.

Shinkhandi – The Story of the In-Betweens
A comic, tongue-in-cheek, re-telling of the story of Shinkhandi; mixing the traditional with the contemporary, the grandeur of physical Indian storytelling and contemporary English verse – questioning gender, sexuality, masculinity, femininity, and everything in between. This unique perspective and the conversational style of the play motivates the audience to examine their own biases and realise the futility of the labels that society enforces.

Ila by The Patchworks Ensemble
Directed by Puja Sarup and Sheena Khalid, ‘Ila’, looks at gender, its related myths as well as the dilemmas and the importance they play in our lives today. The story is about a king who ventures into an enchanted forest and is transformed by a spell. As the moon waxes and wanes so does Ila, turning from man to woman and back to man. With ever-changing landscapes sometimes in ancient land and sometimes in the local trains of Mumbai- and leaps in time, his chorus takes the audience through a provocative, playful and exciting journey that questions what it means to “be a women/man and everything in between.”

Jug Jug Jiyo
An innovative play in Hinglish, Jug Jug Jiyo, directed by Smita Bharti, unravels the lives of two women across three decades, who are sharing a house in a small town. The play begins with the visit of their children who are in a live-in-relationship in Mumbai to their home town to meet their parents. The new dynamic in the family leads to a small confrontation and lays bare the hidden past of the two women until there is nothing left to lay bare. The story intimately journeys through hard hitting topics of social stigma of unmarried and pregnant women, marital rape, female foeticide, infanticide, trafficking and illegal surrogacy. Jug Jug Jiyo is an entertaining yet socially relevant play that compels one to think of the many messages it wants to deliver. It ends with love and hope that change is possible.

Baaware Maan Ke Sapne
An all women production, ‘Baaware Maan Ke Sapne’ enacted by homemakers who have gone through vigorous training of discipline of time, space and body, besides sessions on acting, communication etc. The protagonist Amma, an elderly woman decides to visit her daughter in London, and in her preparation for the voyage gets together with all the women in her family who share their stories – each being ruthless commentary on social evils that plague us to this day. The play intelligently wove excerpts from various stories by Indian women writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Lalitambika Antarjanam, dealing with tradition and scepticism, collective responsibility and individual choice, into its narrative.

OK Tata Bye, bye
Based on the Bachchda women who, by tradition, are sex workers and bread winners in their family, OK Tata Bye, bye, is a poignant play on a community that follows the matrilineal system. The play is based on filmmakers trying to capture the lives of the community on camera but they soon realize that these girls maybe naïve but not fools and it is the filmmakers who are the ones facing some hard questions.

“Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to.” – Willem Dafoe

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