Drama reveals pain of riots

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At first, there is a mutter of whispers in low-key which picks up its decibels to loud shrieks of female voices, followed with an uproar of mob fury and the stomping of their attackers’ strident footsteps. Then in the next minute, hurls in a sudden rush of helpless women, who seem to be scurrying amok in fear from every corner of the auditorium — be it from the side exit-ways, up from the balcony or from behind, running down the steps in a frantic frenzy. The fidgety bandwagon of shocked, scarred faces, paled with the fright and dismay of their enemies in hot-pursuit, confused with the unexpected, unforeseen turn of events and the uncertainty about their imminent fate, are seen colliding, tumbling and bumping into one another only to catch a train heading for the other side of the border — to an unknown, alien land.
In a couple of moments, the theatre hall turns into a house of horror and the audience gets immediately swooped in to the engaging performance plot. Carrying their ramshackle belongings over their heads and babies in their laps (or some even in their wombs as expectant mothers), the women struggle to get on to the train pulled in by a hissing and swooshing steam-engine. Packed beyond capacity with people spilling from every outlet of the doors and windows, the train soon after chugs out on its wheels, leaving behind a bunch of 25 women who in turn emerge as the lead characters of the heart-rending play called Simayon se Parey, or Beyond Boundaries as the English translation suggests.
The best part about a site-specific-cum-proscenium format of theatre is the audience-involvement. And the latter is driven in sub-consciously. At times, the onlookers are even caught unawares by a stream of overwhelming actions, for which they are either not prepared for or else, haven’t been informed from beforehand. Women looking out for their lost loved ones in the midst of a huddle with the lanterns and torches in hands come forward and ask the captive spectators to respond to their questions in a desperate search for their missing families.
In that jostling pace, some actors from the ensemble cast even end up nudging or falling over on the viewers’ feet seated in the first row. So the experience of watching such a show is not only audio-visual-emotional, but also tangible enough to tug in a chord. Full marks to the distinguished helmer Ramanjit Kaur for effectively applying this technical device on her engrossed audience-minds.
Whether it is this side of the fence or that side, it doesn’t matter. For every ill-fated woman who had crossed a myriad miles in hope of a greener pasture on the opposite end of the LoC, it was a journey of unforgettable nightmare. Leaving behind their lands, homes, near relations and properties overnight, the traumatised women groaning with pain, anguish and agony somehow trudged ahead to pick up the shreds of their devastated lives only to stitch them together into a patchworked blanket and find a warm shelter under its cover. The hordes of women who failed to board the train by a whisker just settled down with their loads of baggage, stepping out of their once-secure thresholds to coalesce bond and retell their gut-wrenching stories.
Hence, there lies a tearful saga hidden behind every mass killing and every sore wound being thrust upon a specific community. But does the soil, air, sky or the nature of this beautiful earth belong to either the Hindus or the Muslims? Who creates such schisms? The deep incisions caused by the mindless bloodshed are not easy to fill in with time. Via their conversations, the victims and survivors of a sweeping carnage keep wondering over the importance of an independence that followed with a demanding cost and compromise, and how!
Shaken off by a tapestry of such moving Partition tales which reveal women’s utter defencelessness in the face of communal riots, the reputed Creative Arts theatre troupe comes up with its new stage-presentation — Simayon se Parey, a play with a conspicuous all-women cast, directed by Ramanjit Kaur and music, composed by the ace tabla maestro, Tanmoy Bose. The production was rendered at the Satyajit Ray Auditorium in Kolkata’s ICCR. But one wonders, when the country is reeling under a curse of rape-epidemic, was then staging this act a mere coincidence?
“Unfortunately... it’s topical,” says Ramanjit. “I’ve always pondered over what spurts such a heinous crime. What provokes a pervert to outrage the modesty of a woman? Is it only his carnal hunger or something beyond that?”
Drawing nuggets of stories soaked with the stains of sufferance and cruelty from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, Simayon Se Parey promises to be a play worth watching.
The lighting arrangement done by the nationally-acclaimed designer Daulat Vaid deserves a special mention as his jugglery of light-n-shadow with sometimes intense red, yellow and blue tints acts as a catalytic agent to up the dramatic ante required on the stage. The set-decoration executed by Charu Rajgarhia too needs a separate note for its intricate detailing. Finally, the play culminates with a freezing posture of the all women-group who gather in a tight-knit throng to form a human barricade and looks determined to muster up courage and fight back their foes, who are close at their heels.

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