Stage for Change

Smita Bharti translates her extensive experience as a social activist into performance art through a play

Written by Parul | Published: August 20, 2013 5:51 am

“This is not a mere play for me. It is the voice of all those countless women,who absorb the impact of everyday violence and are unable to speak up,” says actor Smita Bharti,whose latest play,Jug Jug Jiyo,was staged on Sunday as part of the Chandigarh Arts and Heritage festival. The play is a strong comment against female foeticide in the urban setting.

Bharti,who also writes her plays,translates her extensive experience as a social activist into performance art through theatre,multimedia productions and films. She has worked extensively in prisons with under-trials and outside the prisons with survivors of domestic violence and child sexual abuse,using storytelling and theatre as the medium of interaction. Many times,this work has culminated in documentary theatre performances. “My work stems from lived

experiences. I stepped out of a bad marriage to work with

Sakshi,an NGO that supports women who have suffered third-degree domestic violence and come from varied sections of society. Since theatre has been in my DNA since childhood,I was asked to do a play with them,” adds Bharti. She admits that different processes have shaped her plays along the way. “I realised that what I have suffered is not my identity,but what I’m going to do will be. Transcending many barriers and scars,there was healing,which needed to go beyond the personal,” she says.

Her work suggests that human rights are routinely violated by both state and society and Bharti seeks to discover ways to express the effects of this on ordinary citizens. “I am especially interested in the moment when a person transcends the state of inertia and choicelessness,and confronts the imperative to take responsibility and make choices,” says Bharti,who believes theatre can be a critical tool to guide people towards such a point.

Bharti has directed and scripted over 20 plays over the past decade. Her work has been staged for mainstream audiences,nukkad nataks and she has also worked with school students and educators. “Stereotypes need to be addressed,especially those of the middle-class to promote the practice of everyday equality and ending gender violence,” says Bharti,who is writing a play on the subject of marital rape and another on six women in an asylum.

There’s another play on an interaction between a student and teacher on Asperger’s syndrome. “These are people who live on the margins,not recognised by policies or governments. We need to make their voices heard,” she assures.

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