Udaan enacts Baawre Mann Ke Sapne... at ICCR on Wednesday. Picture by Arnab Mondal
A deep desire for self-expression has led a motley group of homemakers and professionals, with little or no experience of the stage, to come together and float Calcutta’s first all-women theatre group. Udaan took flight on Wednesday evening to a full house at ICCR on Ho Chi Minh Sarani with Baawre Mann Ke Sapne..., under the direction of theatre artiste Ramanjit Kaur.
Udaan was founded in 2011 as a collaboration between Millennium Mams’, an NGO for women, and The Creative Arts, a theatre training institute steered by Ramanjit. But you wouldn’t mistake the 14 members, who took part in the play, for amateurs.
“Initially I was not sure if I wanted to do such a long-term project, binding myself for six months to work with theatre novices. But since I have worked on theatre as therapy for so long, I thought what better way to implement it and see how it helps these women.... The girls have been a revelation! They are better than many professionals, considering they have practised only for six months,” said Ramanjit.
Light and fluffy was not an option for these women who brought so much of themselves, their experiences, desires and insecurities, into the play.
Based on the works of Indian women authors like Jhumpa Lahiri, Bulbul Sharma, Abha Iyenger, Irene Dhar Malik and Lalitambika Antarjanam, Baawre Mann Ke Sapne... explored some relevant issues in the Indian household — from the problem of being a girl child to being widowed at a young age, broken dreams to smiling faces hiding their fears, child abuse to marital rape.
The character of Amma, an elderly woman who decides to make a trip to London to see her son, acts as the thread tying all the subplots into the 65-minute play. Amma calls all her granddaughters over to prepare for her journey, which serves as the setting for the women to interact and narrate their stories, shattering the mask of social civility.
Beautiful sets, striking costumes and lights added to the raw, heart-felt performances.
“When you get married, you forget to live for yourself. But with Udaan, we have got an opportunity to see a new side of ourselves. Ramanjit Ma’am has changed our lives,” said Pragya Gupta, one of the actors.
For Shiree Arora, a 40-year-old homemaker, it was her dream to act that prompted her to sign up for Udaan, while for Shilpa Jhawar, it was the thrill of going back to the stage, which she had last stepped on to more than 15 years ago in school.
“I have always been an introvert, a bit of a Plain Jane, and I needed to break the mould. I needed to step out and do something different, and Udaan gave me this opportunity,” said Vineeta Abhani, another participant.
Each of them had their own story to tell but the outcome has been the same for all — a new-found love for theatre. Bhavna Gupta, for one, is certain that Baawre Mann is not going to be a one-off thing for her.
“You can’t imagine the things we have done in the past few months. We did workshops, cried buckets, had fun, gotten over our inhibitions and fallen in love with each other and the stage. We would come in the morning and not even realise we had spent most of the day together, improvising the lines and learning to act,” said Sonia Dhir.
Now the girl gang is waiting for their next show. And with a new batch of women poised to join Udaan, the group is in high spirits. “We hope to continue doing good theatre. After all, we girls got to keep going and doing things our way!” signed off Sonia.