The timing of the play ‘The Storm Within....Stories of Abuse’ could not have been more apt. Staged successively on February 4 and 5 at Lamakaan, the play marks a month and some to go before the International Women’s day.
A production by Torn Curtains, the serious play deals with issues of gender and domestic violence and is based on the work of two authors Umbereen Inayet and Mehreen Poonja titled ‘Meri Kahani’.
Revolving around five characters -- Annie, Jaswinder and her mother, Phool, Madhulekha and Fatima -- it highlighted through a combination of monologues and dialogue interactions the tribulations of being a woman in an abused environment..
While issues of domestic abuse have often been seen across multi-media platforms, from cinema to television to street plays, the angst of the transgender and lesbian is the more concerned focus of this play. Especially, as it blends well with the changing mood of the society about them of late and the rejection of the LGBT rights by the judiciary.
The stand-out performances of the play, running into more than 90 minutes, were that of Annie, the lesbian and Phool, the transgender. Nearly half of the play time was commanded by their riveting performances that brought out sensitive dimensions to their persona, which are often ignored, vilified or ridiculed by ‘normal’ people.
Like any minority group which faces the overbearing domination of the majority, the play highlighted the dilemmas and frustration of two ‘differently-oriented’ people as they endeavour to fit into the mainstream.
While domestic violence cannot be condoned because it is widely prevalent, somehow, the performances of the two artistes in the play Maaji aur Beti was a tad stereotyped and predictable with the mother coaxing the daughter to use a combination of tactics - charm, servility and guile - to stay put at her in-law’s and serve them. The story of a panicky Shanti, a Tamil housewife who cannot communicate in English and is caught with a violent husband in Canada, was another poignant tone to the play.
Indeed, true to its name, as the play progressed, it brought out a storm of mixed emotions, highlighting the many miles for Indian society to go before the destruction within our women’s lives subsides.