This is a time when women are rising up against violence and oppression. They show their courage by being at the forefront of all the struggles against such violence. At this juncture, a city-based Tamil theatre group is to stage two new plays inspired by real life incidents. The recent preview show of those plays drew attention to the little known events through the lead characters.
Marapachi, a renowned Tamil theatre group headed by well-known theatre artist and performing arts academician A Mangai, has created the two plays and will stage them on April 14, alongside Dr Ambedkar’s birth anniversary commemoration. One play is based on the atrocities that took place during the last months of the Emergency and the other on the problems faced by a woman graveyard worker in the burial of an ‘encountered’ man’s body. The plays are penned by noted activist V Geetha and directed by A Mangai.
Vakkumoolam centres around a woman named Nagamma, married to a Dalit man and ostracised by her own community, who manages to expose corruption and violence among the local authorities. At one point she is arrested on false charges and goes through intolerable mental and physical torture. She is also made to witness the continuous sexual abuse of her daughter by the policeman. All this happens in 1977 towards the end of the Emergency. After her release, she embarks on the pursuit of justice and discovers that the man investigating the case is one of the torturers.
Sudalaiamma tells the story of a woman graveyard worker named Sudalaiamma, who believes in a decent burial even for abandoned bodies. When a political activist, Seeraalan, is killed in an encounter, she finds the police treat the body like that of a traitor. She risks the disapproval of the police to conduct the last rites for the ‘encountered’ body in a decent way.
A Mangai says, in a monograph prepared by Marapachi on these plays, “When we speak about violence, how can we share the experience of pain? What language can we use to share the memories of sexual assault? Through these questions, Vakkumoolam unfolds as a struggle between authority and ethical justice. With regard to Sudalaiamma, in a society of injustice, seeking respect for the dead becomes a crime. The protagonist of the play confronts the state authority over life and death by speaking of the value of life from the field of death. The structure of the play was inspired by Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden and Sophocles’s Antigone.”
Speaking to City Express, V Geetha said, “I came to know Nagamma’s story through an article written by Mythily Sivaraman of the CPM and AIDWA that was published in Economic and Political Weekly. This play is a tribute to her.” Geetha is compiling Mythily’s articles to publish as a book.
“The second story is about Seeraalan, a political activist of Vellore Tiruppatur, who was killed by the police force in 1978-79. We dedicate this story to human rights activist, the late Dr K Balagopal” she said.
Both plays have talented artists such as Srijith Sundaram of Kattiyakkaari theatre group, Jeni and Revathi playing roles.
The plays are to be staged at Spaces, No 1, Elliots Beach Road, Besant Nagar at 7 pm on April 14.