All-woman group spreads the ‘word’ of awareness

When theatre acts as a therapy, its message travels beyond the stage podium. It impacts the audience to carry forward the “word” of awareness to be spread around. And talking of women’s plight, who better than the fairer sex itself can take up the baton in hand for the cause? The Creative Arts theatre troupe did precisely the same when they recently presented their production Baawre Mann Ke Sapne at Kolkata’s ICCR Auditorium. This is an all-woman rendition, which depicts the journey of a woman and, at times, her empowerment in the society.
Helming the play and propping up women-oriented issues to the fore, along with a plethora of roles they play in their life, Ramanjit opines: “I personally feel that women belonging to the middle and upper middleclasses of Indian society are the most underprivileged lot, for the simple reason that they cannot exercise their vocal powers. They lack a voice in every aspect of their lives and silently surrender and succumb to every insult and injury meted out to them. They are mute spectators and sufferers of many a such injustice in the hands of patriarchy.” In the hindsight if we weigh this thought seriously, we’ll in fact, realise how true it is. For how many times do they discuss matters that concern them? They just faintly beam at the turn of events that their fate impose upon them. And then there settles in a pall of gloomy silence which crops up from a sense of low self-esteem, fear of rejection, social unacceptance and the embarrassment of ridicule. On this front, theatre is a platform which helps the so-called “weaker sex” get a voice, gain confidence, mould themselves as well as their surroundings for better and teaches them relationship building.
“See, there are two ways to look at the domain of dramatics. One is treating theatre as an art form. While the other, as a therapeutic process to heal up the mental scars from within. We applied both methods during the rehearsals as well as the grooming session of the cast and crew. Hence the entire journey has witnessed a two-way approach to the theatrical medium,” elucidates Kaur.
In the past six months, the director divulges to have seen the bubble of bonding, sharing, emoting, enacting and analysing to magnify in size and grow from strength to strength, which she had earlier carefully injected amongst her actors right at the genesis of their theatrical tryst. “But above all, the experience for them has been a sheer exhilarating and rejuvenating one,” she insists. While embracing theatre as a stress-buster, it was heart-warming to see everyone laying out her heart uninhibitedly bare in front of the captive audience inside a dark, closed space of an auditorium with each one’s anxieties, concerns, trepidation, deep dark secrets, internal demons, sorrows and joys writ large on her face. Every soul demonstrated her intrepidity to expose her situation like an open letter to be read, discussed and debated in the public forum. Over here, the audience formed the spectators’ gallery to whom the stories have been addressed and it watched, listened and waited patiently till the performance ended to rise to its feet and send in its feedback through a rousing applause.
Inspired by a set of disturbing sagas from real life, Baawre Mann Ke Sapne attempts to touch that nucleus of happiness, which every woman aspires in her life — to love and be loved, to be affectionate and feel the affection, to care for and be cared, to mother and nestle and be gently looked after in return. But when that balloon of idealistic, Utopian dream gets deflated, the world around seems to pulverise in no time. Hoodwinked by rose-tinted glasses, via which, the earth seems so green and romantic, these women confront the truth through their naked eyes. Having chosen excerpts from several short tales by noted Indian women authors, a yarn is spontaneously spun by a tapestry of stories ranging from themes like tradition, scepticism, collective responsibilities, individual choices, caste and hierarchy, relationships, physical and emotional violence, dreams and nightmares, sexuality to search for one’s own self-identity with a new vigour. Works of renowned writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Bulbul Sharma, Abha Iyengar, Irene Dhar Malik, Lalitambika Antarjanam, et al have been incorporated in the play.
Be it female foeticide, gender bias, sexual abuse, exploitation, discrimination, glass-ceiling, honour killing or domestic violence — a girl-child, a mature woman or an old mother is always pushed to the receiving end of male-dominance as a victim to prey upon. Thus, with a view to try and lift up the chains from women’s effort to emancipate themselves and the society around them, the drama Baawre Mann Ke Sapne galvanises women into an arena of positive action and join the brigade of women’s liberation through its script. The project is unique in itself as it’s one of the first endeavours to create an all-woman theatre group in India with homemakers drawn from middle and upper middle-class strata majorly forming it cast. Also the fact that theatre can be utilised as a holistic redeemer from the root with non-actors featuring in the plot, was manifested through this play. To showcase a flawless act, the entire ensemble cast was actually put through a rigorous training of discipline of time, space and body. “They have had sessions from professionals on acting, theatre theory, communication, music appreciation, light design and space design. Well, for them, the theatrical-trip has just started I can say,” holds Kaur.
Sprouting as a fresh breed of saplings from the seeds that Kaur had sown in their minds long ago, the bevy of raw, amateur, formally untrained actors looked genuine with their act, expressions and dialogue-throw. They all have a natural flair for acting which came through their honest performance.
A flitting fumble here and there too was lapped up by the generous yet discreet audience which kept encouraging the performers throughout from the first to the last scene. Through improvisations, all characters were woven together to exist in one space. The focal point is the character of the aged matron Amma who decides to fly away to London to see her daughter Amita, who’s happily married to an Englishman there. Taking cues from an assortment of written pieces, the kirdaars further developed the plot according to their own impulse and intuition.
What is most fascinating about a Creative Arts stage-piece is that it is very visually appealing. A flurry of activities goes along together on stage, filling up its complete canvas.
From colourful props to costumes to poetic chants, every slide cuts an attractive picture without loosing its connection from the core subject. For instance, the opening sequence unveils a gang of young girls either busy doing a piece of delegated task or just whiling away time by playing a guitar, painting a canvas, rolling laddoos on the palms, making papad, washing clothes with the soapy-lather smeared on their hands and feet, decking up one’s face and hair with a mirror in hand, blowing bubbles in the air, forming sand-houses or studying books to appear in exams.

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