- JWB Post
- December 16, 2014
Her every expression, little gestures that were followed by the entire audience kept us glued to our seats. In the festival’s brochure we had read that the play was silent, but during those 45 minutes, they spoke tons more than what might have been possible in an entire day.
“Women can do everything that men can except drinking alcohol.”
This was the statement made by social reformer Pandita Ramabai in a speech which she wasn’t allowed to continue by the male audience present there. Based on Tagore’s controversial letter to Ramabai in this context, Unseen was truly a visual treat for people who were present there at Jawahar Kala Kendra in a very cold December morning.
The music too was a pleasant surprise for us because at first we couldn’t make out that in a silent play, what a pressure cooker, few kitchen utensils and a drilling machine is doing. But as the show went on we saw the wonders they did to the background music. The sound of the kitchen knife perfectly complemented the scene when, we see the protagonist being forcibly made to endure the injustices inflicted on her. Every time we heard the hissing sound of the pressure cooker letting out jets of steam we felt the world slowly draining out the energy from the deprived woman. In each passing moment we saw the journey of a woman in the contemporary world.
We saw her as a regular everyday woman, as a person being made a target by the entire chauvinistic world, a woman desperately trying to wash herself from the male gaze which pierces her every day. We then saw her as a goddess created by the same hostile world to serve their own purposes and lastly as a fashion model walking the ramp wearing jewelries which ironically looks like shackles created and designed again by the same society.
After the show JWB caught up with the director and actor of Unseen, Vishnu Barve and Kalyani Muley for a chat after the play. Following are the excerpts of the interview.
JWB: What inspired you to create the concept of Unseen?
Vishnu: When we came to know about the letters of Tagore to Ramabai, in which he said that women can never be equal to men, it intrigued us very much because what Tagore said was contradictory to his own views.
Kalyani: We tried to explore a lesser known side of Tagore which we came to know through this unpublished letter.
JWB: The music is very innovative. What was behind your decision to use domestic utensils as music tracks?
Vishnu: We thought that the idea of using sounds which are heard mostly inside a kitchen, we thought it to be appropriate for our concept.
Kalyani: Because you know, the way a woman is still solely associated with the kitchen!
JWB: Do you think that with this play you have also tried to explore the underlying hypocrisy of our society?
Vishnu: Well you saw for yourself that how they started worshipping the same woman as a goddess whose voice they had suppressed through discrimination. This we get to see regularly.
JWB: Anything that you want to say about the audience in Jaipur? How did you find them?
Kalyani: I was really impressed to see that throughout our performance almost everyone was immersed in the play and seemed very courteous.
Vishnu: Yes they do seem to be very mature. We are really happy to perform in front of such a lovely audience.
The next play was nothing less than the Flight of a Phoenix….
Once upon a time there lived a girl who was born with wings. But do you think she could fly? No! She was trapped and her wings were chopped to stop her from flying.
Sonali Bhardwaj reflected this through her solo performance in ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. If we think a little deeply we could find this girl in someone we know from our everyday life. She might be the girl whose name is suddenly taken off from the school register because she will be married at 15 or she could be an employee of a reputed investment bank who is refused a promotion not on the basis of her capability but because of her gender. The pain of countless women whose desire to excel in life is marred by the cruel society was evident in the way Sonali played the role of a girl with broken wings.
But wait. What are we seeing?? The girl slowly tries to make a new wing from the remaining parts of her broken wings. Is it not similar to the way we find women taking on the whole world and declaring that she won’t remain suppressed anymore? It is true that there is an intentional delay to let us know about her achievements but nevertheless she is not a person who would give up that easily.
At the end we see the girl make a new pair of wings from the broken remains of the ones which were chopped off. We see a woman declare in a loud voice that she will no longer be at the receiving end of the unprovoked backlash from the world. It is then, that we are compelled to think that how could she fly again when her wings were cut years ago? That is what Sonali Bhardwaj tries to tell us through the play, that learn to appreciate your inner beauty, because it is a source of endless joy.
“Almost” all of us agree to that, isn’t it?
By Deep Mukherjee,