Interview with Mallika Taneja: Media told her ‘Thoda Dhyaan Se’
- JWB Post
- December 24, 2014
When theatre artist Mallika Taneja came to Jaipur to present her play ‘Thoda Dhyaan Se’ at Jairangam 2015, she was filled with excitement & hopes to impress Jaipurites with the message of ‘Freedom for Women’.
Alas, her happiness was turned into shock when the next morning after her performance, she read the news in papers. Few Pink city’s media houses came up with headlines showcasing Mallika and her act as ‘Nudity’. The news screamed one question – how can Mallika, being a woman, display a vulgar act in our ‘traditionally’ preserved Pink City.
However, after witnessing her play we have a different viewpoint. Her act was solely in support of woman empowerment questioning the woman’s dressing sense. Question here is – why did some of us fail to focus on the real message? And most importantly, why do we shame on nature’s gift to us – our body?
Keeping in mind the fact that our city is still new to bold acts, isn’t it time we take a step forward already for the sake of good cause. In an exclusive telephonic interview with JWB, Mallika is sharing her grief-turning-into-determination after this incident.
JWB – Kindly share the message behind your play you presented at Jairangam this month?
Mallika – ‘Thoda Dhyaan Se’ is a satirical piece on how women should dress in the city in order to avoid any trouble that might befall them. The piece criticizes the notion that women must be responsible for their own safety and must ply by the norms that are pre defined for them.
JWB – A little about Jaipur’s newspaper controversy.
Mallika – Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Jagran and National Duniya published false and one sided reports on my performance. I was shocked and disappointed to read words like ‘ashleel’ used for my piece and me in the newspaper whereas all I had received from the audience was appreciation and love. It seems to me that none of the reporters who have written these reports were present in the auditorium that afternoon. Had they been present, they would have known that contrary to their claims, the audience actually did not object to my performance and was not embarrassed by it either.
JWB – Are you more determined after it?
Mallika – Definitely.
JWB – How do you encourage yourself for bold scenes? Is it more difficult for women actors to perform bold scenes on stage?
Mallika – It is, after all, if I were a man standing in my underwear, trying to say something, no one would object to it. Once you are convinced about what you are doing, then I suppose the motivation comes by itself.
JWB – Taking your thought further, do you think Jaipur would have reacted the same way had there been a male actor in your place showing himself in underwear?
Mallika – Jaipur reacted just fine. It is these few reporters who make it seem as though Jaipur had a problem. It is actually only these two or three people who have stirred up this storm. And yes, these people would not have said anything had this been done by a male actor.
JWB – Talk about Art & Nudity. How far is this combination justified?
Mallika – The justification of anything that is done in a performance must lie within the performance itself. This applies to all elements of a performance – dialogue, set, music, etc. Nudity in my opinion is also, another element. So if the performance convinces me of it, I feel there is absolutely no reason why it should not be used.
JWB – Full nudity is a customary part of western theater. How acceptable is Indian mainstream theater towards it?
Mallika – Nudity, partial or full, on stage is not widely practiced or acceptable in the theatre. However, in film, women are in skimpy clothing all the time and that is packaged and presented as an image of beauty and desire. This schizophrenic acceptance and rejected of nudity befuddles me. People are comfortable and desiring of something they can watch from the safe distance of a screen. However changing the context and putting the same image breathing and living in front of an audience is met with strong resistance. I suppose this is a true reflection of exactly how ‘developed’ our society is.
JWB – Did you face similar controversy in any other city? What is the response of metro cities with more exposure to art?
Mallika – I have not faced any such controversy in my one and a half years of performing this piece. The response of the metro cities has been appreciative, just like in Jaipur. This is not about the exposure to art, but about how sensitive and conscious people are to their surroundings and how open they are to talking about it. And in this regard, Jaipur was just like any other metro.
JWB – Any message for our women readers?
Mallika – To always stand up for what we think is right and assert our voice.
By Lavanya Bahuguna,