Arnesh Ghose, 26, believes there are three kinds of people in the country. “Number Ones are the anti-everything people, hot-heads, hard nuts, patriarchal. Number Twos are liberal activists, like me. But Number Threes are the scariest. They are the ones in-between, who don’t believe in patriarchy but also don’t do anything about it,” says Ghose. And those are the people Chaarpaai is directed at.
The latest production by theatre company Mirror Merchants, written and directed by Ghose, is a series of four short Hindi plays about aspects of womanhood as seen in the Indian social context. Khol Do, the first play, is based on the short story by Saadat Hassan Manto by the same name on sexual violence during the Partition. Pussy Riot, named after the Russian feminist band, is the second play, about the censorship of women’s voices in literature and the arts. The third, Do Boond Roshi Ki, is the story of a prostitute and a eunuch who fall in love, while The Idiots is a tongue-in-cheek comedy about escapism.
While discussing his plays, Ghose is visibly agitated. “When a woman starts talking about feminism, she is ‘ranting’. We’ve made it so that some women — and definitely most men — don’t even want to associate themselves with the word ‘feminism’ any more. I say that we’re not ranting enough,” says Ghose.
The fact that men don’t think of themselves as feminists is the biggest problem, he says. “Everyone should take offence when a woman’s body is used to offend or is made fun of.” Do Boond Roshi Ki addresses these issues. “Eunuchs can dress any way they want in the West. But here, if you’re not ‘enough of a man’, it follows that you are then a woman and must dress like one. Why don’t we question this?” Ghose acts in this play as the tyrannical brothel madam.
He has also created the Chaarpaai Project to ensure that his work on the issues remains relevant. The internet series Balltalks, which is part of the project, films men talking about women’s issues. “Often with hilarious consequences,” says Ghose. The project also includes two original songs, shot as music videos, that had been written for the play, and an art collective that people can contribute to.
Chaarpaai will be staged on February 26 and 27 and March 4 at Sathaye Auditorium, Vile Parle.