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Theatre fest highlights female emancipation

Balangir, Jan. 27: The New Delhi-based Pandies Theatre Group staged Hindi play Sarkari Feminism on the second day of the All India Multilingual Theatre Festival ‘Mathkhai Mahotsav’ here on Monday evening.

It was a play that raised serious questions about various women’s issues and the state’s approach to such issues. The play was interactive and asked the audience questions.

The play’s analysis of the feminist cause was multi-layered. It worked on at least three levels. The first inter-phase was with government policy. How effective are various attempts of the state to intervene in women’s emancipation? How honest are these attempts? How far are these attempts rooted in questionable, if not defunct, traditions and how many of them are based on studies in the here and now?

The questions assumed special significance in the light of the spate of pro-women legislation in the preceding decade and the hanging issue of reservation of seats for women in the parliament.

Taking a look at commissions and committees appointed by the state to look into women’s problems, the play presented a humorous take on these attempts. How much has actually been achieved? Have the vast majority of women located in the margins of class, caste, region and sexuality benefited from these, or are they only beneficial for theempowered?

The reflexive mode allows the play to create abundant situational humour as the group proceeds to stage a “play” within the play. Is the intervention of independent groups better than that of the state? Are they more capable of surmounting their class biases and better able to understand and address the issues?

Are their attempts, smaller in scale and also sporadic and spasmodic, nevertheless better models than the agendas of the state?

Leaning on its work with women in slums of north India, the play presents two stories of trafficking and prostitution, of the treatment of these women when they step out of normal sexual patterns, of exploitation within the family, of exploitation within one’s community.

The script for the play was written by Anuradha Marwah and the play was directed by Sanjay Kumar. The cast of the play included Payal Agarwal, Muntazar, Shilpi Gulati, Siddharth Satija, Udit Khurana, Diksha Lamba, Priiya Prethora, Rahil Chatterjee, Sanyukta Saha, Jitender.

On the inaugural evening, the festival opened with a home production Ukhi, a Sambalpuri play staged by Bhumika, a Balangir-based socio-cultural organisation and some senior artists of the town. The play was written by Binod Pasayat and directed by Bhaskar Ray Mehta.

It was the story of how the village head oppresses the villagers taking advantage of their illiteracy and simplicity. In the end, though, he falls in the pit dug by him.

Bhaskar Ray Mehta, the director of the play, said it was unwritten rule to reap as you sow. “In the Tretaya era, it was Raavana and in the Dwapara it was Kansa. Such Raavanas and Kansas are there in every sphere of our life. They come, they rule and at the end they pay for their misdeeds. This is what I have tried to highlight in my play,” Mehta said.

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