Neelam Man Singhs Streer Patra,based on Rabindranath Tagores short story opens in Chandigarh this week.
She may perform anywhere in India or abroad,but Rock Gardens amphitheatre is a special stage for Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry. The joy of performing in Chandigarh and playing to the audience here,admits the renowned theatre director,is special in more ways than one. Its a space which generates her work,where she and her drama have evolved and is an intrinsic part of the many facets of her theatre. Its a special bond, says Chowdhry,as she prepares to stage her play Streer Patra (A Wifes Letter) adapted from a short story by Rabindranath Tagore,for the first time in the city. Commissioned by The Tagore Society,the play was staged in Punjabi as part of the Rabindra Utsav in Kolkata in 2010 to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore. Yes,it took a long time to get it here,for lack of sponsorship and support,but were making up for the delay by staging five shows of Streer Patra which has been possible because People For Animals is taking care of all the financial and technical issues involved in staging a play, explains the director. The proceeds from the shows will go to animal welfare projects run by PFA in the city.
The last show of Streer Patra (April 23) will be presented by Samarpan Foundation,a non-profit charitable trust run by volunteers who provide help and assistance of any kind when there is a humanitarian,ecological or environmental need,including various projects in Chandigarh. With volunteers claiming no expenses,all the money donated is used to fund these projects.
As for Streer Patra,the protagonist in the play is Mrinal,a child bride,who secretly writes poetry to assuage the listlessness of her mundane life. She finds companionship with the cows and buffaloes in the house. In this monotonous universe enters Bindu,the orphaned older relative. This event unravels layers of experiences that are shared and explored by the two women. They are the pivots as everything revolves around their beautiful and haunting relationship,fraught with ambiguity are they mother and daughter? Friends? Or are they reliving their lost childhood?
The director has used her lead actors Rocky and Raman to essay the character of Mrinal,while Gick Grewal plays the role of Bindu. Chowdhry says she felt the need for two Mrinals to communicate the story effectively,one participates in the physical action on stage and the other takes the narrative forward. The male actor playing Mrinal is creating a degendering of his role,perhaps leading to a more egalitarian approach to performance, says Chowdhry. she adds that its Surjit Patar who has done the daunting and amazing task of translating and adapting the play in Punjabi.
Mrinal in the story Streer Patra,adds Chowdhry,helped her to understand that even though Tagores women characters were subjected to a feudal and domestic order,they found their imaginary space where they could dream,weave games and play.
The play will be staged from April 19 to April 23 at the Rock Garden Amphitheatre,Phase 1,7 pm onwards.