From street to stage

This group of women, who were familiar faces in the anti-CAA protests in the city, will now take centre-stage at a play that revisits Safdar Hashmi’s Aurat on the occasion of Women’s Day

Published: 04th March 2021 05:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th March 2021 05:38 AM   |  A+A-

The women from Bilal Bagh who will act in the play 

Express News Service

BENGALURU: When Sujatha Balakrishnan was attending one of the CAA protests at Bilal Bagh last year, she was taken aback by the feisty nature of the women protestors. The theatreperson then wondered about the lives of these women – were they the same in their homes or were they a different person, perhaps meek and mild, in a patriarchal set-up? These thoughts led her to approach them for the upcoming production, Aurat, which will be staged on March 8 at Lahe Lahe. Six women and one man will be acting in the one-hour-long production. The multilingual play, originally written by Safdar Hashmi, brings to centre-stage the women of Bilal Bagh, who will question society about the role of women. 

Working with these women was an eye-opener for Balakrishnan. Recalling a rehearsal, she explains how in one of the scenes, a woman was to angrily question whether women are just born to marry, reproduce and satisfy the lust of her husband. “She kept smiling as she said her dialogue and I was quite surprised. So I asked her, ‘Isn’t this your situation at home?’ She laughed and said that it was nothing close to it. Everything that went on in her home was without discrimination,” says Balakrishnan, who now chides herself about the gender cliches she once assumed.   

Divided into three sections -- each helmed by one director-- the play has Hindi, Kannada and Tamil dialogues. While Balakrishnan, the founder of Theatre for Change, has worked on the first segment in Tamil, which revolves around a father not wanting to send his daughter to school, the second part in Hindi has been directed by Vandana Amit Dugar. Sachin Sreenath has worked on the third part, which has been done in Kannada and Hindi, and deals with marriage and family.

Besides live music featuring djambe and dafli, the play will also see the women singing their own songs. “Their wards from schools across Bengaluru will also recite a few of Hashmi’s anthologies, including Duniya Sabki, which introduces children to social justice in a creative and non-preachy way,” she says. The show will conclude with actor Urvashi Goverdhan reciting some of Maya Angelou’s works. 

Feisty though they were on the streets, Balakrishnan struggled with getting them on stage. “Don’t even ask me how challenging it was, I’m not sure I’ll do this again,” she says. Balakrishnan finally gave them an ultimatum last Saturday, deciding among the other directors that they would carry on with the production even if the women weren’t up for it.

“But there was no way I was going to go ahead with a shoddy show,” she says, adding that it is unfair to coerce the women, all of whom are first-time actors, to take to stage. “They probably didn’t understand the seriousness of the show. But once they did, it’s another matter now that they are rehearsing among themselves and looking forward to being on stage.” The play will be staged on March 8, 6pm, at Lahe Lahe


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