This play could be poetry with a pointed edge. In Mahesh Dattani’s 30 Days of September, a young child, Mala, is repeatedly molested by her maternal uncle, while her mother — fittingly called Shanta — stays silent. The story, which places a predator in the family tree and exposes the hollowness of home and trust, is now being interpreted by theatre director Pankaj Tiwari and his group The Fotons. It will be staged in Delhi on June 20.
Tiwari, whose earlier production, titled Fest: Carnival of Bodies, had the audience crawling through a narrow vagina-like entrance and taking off the clothes worn by an actor as a response to the Delhi gang-rape, is tackling his second non-promenade piece. He interprets 30 Days of September through a string of visuals, sound effects and physical theatre.
In one scene, two actions unfold successively on a split stage. In one, Shanta and her brother talk about Mala, while in the other, Mala tries to break off with her boyfriend Deepak because, as has always happened, she cannot sustain a relationship beyond 30 days. As Deepak refuses to end the affair, Mala shrinks and curls into herself while — like a nightmare from her childhood — the predator crosses the stage and, thumping his thighs, circles her shouting, “Touch me. You don’t love your uncle. Quickly, before someone sees you….”
Tiwari uses intense colours to complement the actions, such as painting the abuser’s body in red and blue to denote his feminine and masculine sides, using cartons pasted with kitschy newspaper glossy pages as tables, and having smoke from an agarbatti rise from the stage floor to the ceiling.
The play opens with the sound of raindrops and tea being sipped from a cup. “We always hear about the issue but, while making this play, new layers of child sexual abuse unfolded for me. I hope to transfer some of my personal meanings through the production. Maybe, the audience will understand why Shanta stays silent,” says Tiwari.
The play will be performed at Akshara Theatre, Delhi, on June 20. Contact: 23742083