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- Published 5.09.14
You’ve seen her on TV recently in Ek Hasina Thi and Adalat. You’ve known her most famously as Gayatri chachi in the mother of all soaps, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Come Saturday, you’ll see Kamalika Guha Thakurta as the voice of girls who deserve to be heard over the din of gender politics.
The Calcutta girl will be in town as part of Emotional Creature, a collection of monologues written by Eve Ensler.
Kamalika started her acting journey in Calcutta with Goutam Ghose (Padma Nadir Majhi) and Rituparno Ghosh (telefilm Drishti), before getting married and moving to Mumbai, where she began her television career as Divya in Zee TV’s Mujhe Chaand Chahiye. Soon after, Kyunki... happened and she’s not looked back since.
So when Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal and her son Kaizaad Kotwal, whose Poor-Box Productions has brought Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues to India, asked her to do Eve’s Emotional Creature with them, she jumped at the prospect.
“What attracts me to this play is firstly Eve Ensler. I have been a huge fan of The Vagina Monologues. She is doing some pathbreaking work for woman empowerment throughout the world. It was an opportunity for me to contribute in a minuscule way by being one of those voices,” Kamalika said over phone from Mumbai.
“More than entertainment, this is activist theatre,” she pointed out.
Kamalika is a part of various pieces in the play. One is called My Short Skirt. “A short skirt here represents any garment that is short. If I am wearing a short skirt, it doesn’t mean that I am a slut. See, even now we have politicians saying that it is the way women dress that causes problems, they should be more clothed, they shouldn’t be out at night. But the problem is not with me, the problem is with you, the person who is looking at me,” Kamalika said.
The other piece she does is called Five Cows and a Calf. “In the Masai tribe in Africa, in terms of hierarchy, it is the boy child, cattle and then comes the girl. They sell off their girls to buy cattle for the family. I am the voice of a Masai girl who doesn’t want to be sold and who fights back. And there’s a huge problem of female genital mutilation, because they don’t want girls to feel any kind of sexual pleasure,” she said. According to Eve’s book, I am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, in Africa about three million girls are at risk of genital mutilation per year. That’s more than 8,000 a day.
As a mother of two little girls, Kamalika feels this play will resonate with all parents. “As a woman and as a mother of girls, I am worried. Today they are in school, tomorrow they’ll go off to college and it’s not possible to always keep tabs on your children. And we shouldn’t also have to! It is unfortunate if I have to dog my daughter and continue to be scared for her.”
She feels that after watching the play, even if a section of the audience just sits and thinks and feels for these girls, “I think as an actor, as a performer, that is where the success lies”.
Born and brought up in Calcutta, Kamalika studied at Modern High School and learnt Rabindrasangeet from Abhirup Guha Thakurta (her uncle) at Dakshinee and Odissi from Muralidhar Majhi.
“Growing up in a culturally active family, I have been exposed to the world of music, dance from a very, very young age. I have extensively performed with Ruma Guha Thakurta (her jethima) and the Calcutta Youth Choir,” she says about her Calcutta childhood. Other than music and dance, Kamalika’s dream was to study in Presidency College, which came true when she got into the history department.
Today, Kamalika is living another dream too, that of “spreading the music of Tagore”. Since 2010 she runs a school in Mumbai called Srijon, affiliated to Dakshinee in Calcutta. It has five centres across Mumbai and teaches Rabindrasangeet.