Growing up in a traditional Punjabi family which has set gender roles, the lead character of Ank Productions’ latest play, Kaamiya, is plagued with self-doubt about her decision to find herself. Why is she leaving a husband who adores and supports her? Will returning to her parental home help her? The latest play by director Ram Gopal Bajaj, named after the lead character, explores the subject of emancipation of women in an Indian context.
On May 4, the NCPA’s Ananda Hindi theatre festival will premiere the play, which is based on a novel written almost 40 years ago. The book, of the same name, was written in English by Indian-American author Kamla Kapur and translated and adapted for the stage by Bajaj.
The lead actor Preeta Mathur, describes Kaamiya as a person who wants to grow intellectually and for that she has to get out of the proverbial cocoon. “She is looking for her identity, away from her husband and her father. She wants to act independently. If she has to find her own space, and her own identity, it has to be neither at her father’s house nor with her husband.”
For Kapur, Kaamiya embodies “the universal human right, in every enlightened society, of every individual to live life on her own terms.” This human right, she believes has traditionally been granted to the men but is still denied to women.
The play is an emotional one for the Ank Productions team. Dinesh Thakur, the founder of the group, started his career with Dishantar, a Delhi-based theatre group where Bajaj was a senior. They wanted to collaborate for a very long time, but didn’t manage to. Thakur passed away in 2012, but this play is a fulfillment of a promise made long ago.