When Amma announces her decision to visit her estranged daughter, Amita, in London, the women of the family flock to her house to help her prepare for the journey. Between packing Amma’s clothes, preparing papads and pickles, a wave of nostalgia engulfs the household and stories of the family’s struggles, accomplishments, regrets and dreams unfold.
After this opening scene, all the 12 characters who have arrived in the house, stay on for the entire length of the 75-minute play, titled, Baawre Mann Ke Sapne. The 2012 all-woman production has been directed by Ramanjit Kaur, the artistic director of The Creative Arts (TCA) in Kolkata. It comes to Mumbai city after being presented at the International Theatre Festival, Kolkata, and the Bharat Rang Mahotsav, Delhi. It was staged at the National Centre for the Performing Arts.
The play, which won the Laadli Media and Advertising Award for Gender Sensitisation last year, has its roots in a few theatre therapy classes conducted at the TCA in Kolkata. “The students who signed up for the class were homemakers with an inclination towards theatre,” recounts Kaur. During the sessions, the women opened up speaking of their dreams while growing up, the sacrifices they made for their families and the decisions they regret. “We got some phenomenal stories of struggles, success and failures,” says Kolkata-based Kaur who has done bit roles in Deepa Mehta’s films Fire and Heaven on Earth.
Two things came out of these classes: the women found a space to forgive and redeem themselves, and their stories were woven together into the script for Baawre Mann Ke Sapne where the women, who are ‘non actors’, play themselves. Some of the stories, however, have also been borrowed from works of Indian women writers such as Jhumpa Lahiri, Bulbul Sharma, Abha Iyenger, among others.
The stories revolve around issues faced by women from the middle- and upper-class societies, like Amma’s family, as Kaur believes them to be the most underprivileged lot, with a false sense of self-esteem and pride and fear of social rejection and ridicule. So while Amma’s relatives narrate stories of marital abuse, domestic violence, health and education are also discussed. There’s also a widow who has successfully moved on to enjoy her life after her husband’s demise and a girl who has trouble deciding what to wear in Delhi, where she studies. “The stories told in the production are different for every performance because we keep collecting more experiences at the therapy sessions,” Kaur says.