After its long-running play Be-Libaas, about the condition of women in the workplace, IPTA Delhi returned last week with Aur Ek Sacch, about the sorry state of women. The hour-long production was presented at Kamani auditorium in collaboration with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.
Even before the stage lights came on, a screen placed on the stage showed news clips of a Yemeni child bride who had died, four days following her wedding, after being tied up and raped. If this established the theme of the play, its tone was set by further visuals. An old woman was up next on the screen, telling Samay — shots of glinting sunlight and smoke, and the introduction, “Main Samay hoon”— that her name is Mada, the equal and opposite of Nar or male, and how a woman is an equal partner but how her own life proves that it is not an ideal world.
“I was 12 when I got married,” she said in Hindustani as the screen dimmed, the stage lit up and a young girl in bridal reds entered with dolls. The play progressed as a medley of short narratives on child marriage, marital rape, stigma of childlessness and exploitation by religious healers. Then, inexplicably, the action segues into one long conversation between two old women. They sit on adjacent beds, curse, taunt and throw things at each other and, in between, remember. And that’s when the play begins to look up.
Salma and Bano, played by Shobhana Bhardwaj and Kajal Suri respectively, fill the skins of two women whom patriarchy once used and now has no use for. Salma’s husband had left her; Bano is a widow, forsaken by her family. As they tease and argue, the textbook script of male-bashing — by Aziz Quraishi, also director of the play — begins to glimmer with humour and layers of feminist references. When they deliver a final outburst, even tired rhetoric becomes a knock-out punch.
This story appeared in print under the headline Woe Man
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