Vibha Rani walks onto the stage, and a pin-drop silence ensues. In moments, from the tall woman that she is, Vibha transforms into a young girl, little more than a toddler. This marks the beginning of an 85-minute solo act Bimb-Pratibimb, a dialogue on the condition of widows in Indian society and how family support can alter their lives. Vibha has written the play, after her earlier outings such as Main Krishna Krishn Ki, Ek Nayi Menka and Balchanda.
At the Bangalore Literature Festival, visitors caught a teaser of the play that has been performed on a variety of stages to equally varied audiences. Vibha makes it a point to frequent jails in Mumbai and some in Pune with her production house Avitoko and help inmates feel lighter through theatre.
Talking of her experiences with them, she says, “You should understand that they (the inmates) are just as much human. The feedback I receive usually includes requests to perform at the jail everyday or comments on how they enjoyed the show because I am not constantly telling them that they have sinned.” Vibha says that theatre has the power to reach out to all since it goes beyond all language.
A trainer in soft skills for corporates, Vibha has also taken her passion for theatre into conference rooms and seminar halls. “For me, it’s all about the people. I don’t have any fixed programme. I innovate as I go along. There’s nothing like theatre to hold attention, to help people relax and instill confidence. Nobody has patience for speeches these days,” adds the artiste.
Vibha’s approach to theatre is an eclectic one - she takes from modern and experimental theatre with her roots firm in folk traditions of Bihar.
Also a translator, she says, “An original is an original; there’s nothing else like it. But translations are the next best thing. They make work accessible to more people, people who do not understand the medium of the original,” says Vibha, who writes in two Indian languages, Maithili and Hindi.
“When you pour water from one glass into another, there are a few drops that you cannot transfer. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t pour the water,” she says. To her, that a cup is half full is more important than it being half empty.
Maithili literature still has a wide audience, it seems. “Apart from being a regional language in Bihar, it’s also a second language in Nepal. And for any person, literature in their native tongue is the dearest,” she says.