Sunday, July 26, 2009

An ode to this most marginalised section of the society

True to life
Women from Sangli enact their lives on stage
From “My Mother The Gharwali Her Maalak His Wife” The Hindu Monday, Dec 08, 2008

Everyone has their point of view on sex workers. But we seldom know what they feel. To clear this ignorance Point of View and Sangram in association with Naz Foundation (India) Trust are presenting “My Mother The Gharwali Her Maalak His Wife". Directed by Sushama Deshpande, it is performed by VAMP (Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad) — a collective of women in sex work based in Sangli, Maharashtra. This is the first time that the play comes to Delhi in its complete form, having been performed previously at the Prithvi Festival and Ranga Shankara.

The play is the culmination of a process that began almost three years, when Sangram (which works with collectives of women sex workers) and Point of View (an organisation that promotes views of women through different mediums) started taking theatre workshops with the sex workers. They were first shown popular Hindi movies, which portrayed sex workers. The women were interested but felt that they’d been misrepresented in all.

Deshpande says that the women agreed Laaga Chunari Mein Daag was the closest to reality! The script of the play has evolved through these workshops and is basically a chronicle of 24 hours in a gully. The story revolves around Leena, a sex worker in love with her rickshaw-driver prince, “who is suddenly talking about riding off into the sunset — alone”. Bishakha Datta of Point of View elaborates on the relevance of the play, “They need to be put in a space where they are accepted as humans and as actors. Theatre has always been a form of empowerment against oppression. This play makes them the subject and not the object. It shows what their lives are actually like. This kind of effort will help change policy in a way that is beneficial to them.”

But for Meena Seshu from Sangram, the play’s greatest significance is that it has helped bridge the divide between the sex workers and their children, who also act in it. She explains, “Society’s views also get ingrained on their children. They feel, ‘I love my mom. But I can’t acknowledge her as my mother.’” The play has brought children and mothers closer. The organisers are also clear that they do not wish this to be seen as an “NGO play”. Deshpande emphasises, “We wanted to do something professional. We had to work on the acting, music and sets.” Datta, whose work involves mixing art and activism, says, “We don’t want to promote good activism through bad art. ”

The success of the show and the victory of the audience will be if we see the women on stage only as actors. The organisers hope that the audience will leave with empathy and not pity. email: NANDINI NAIR


Expressindia » Telling it like it is
Barun Pegu Posted: Jun 18, 2008
My Mother, The Gharwali, Her Maalak, His Wife staged in the city over the last two days provoked the audiences to pause, ponder and alter certain prejudices

Highlighting the plight of prostitutes, the play My Mother, The Gharwali, Her Maalak, His Wife that was staged at Bal Gandharva Natya Mandir on Monday, was a stark representation of the day to day struggles faced by women in this profession. Two highlights marked the event, the play was performed by a troupe of prostitutes and secondly, the play was no less than a professional theatre troupe performance. An ode to this most marginalised section of the society, the play took the viewers to a world full of trials and tribulations where the protagonists battle every prejudice in the book while trying to eke a living for themselves and their children.

But if you thought that this would be a deep, dark and brooding play, you were in for a surprise. The play adopted a lighter vein as it took a look at 24 hours in the lives of the people who live in or pass through the galli (street) in which Leena (the main protagonist) lives. Stringing together a series of episodes the play portrayed the daily harassments from the police and customers and false hopes given by politicians to the inhabitatnts of the sullied address.

The play was performed by VAMP, a collective of women in prostitution that developed as an offshoot of Sangram, but today independently runs a condom-based peer intervention programme in six districts of Maharashtra and northern Karnataka, in collaboration with the Centre for Communication and Development Studies, Pune.

Sangram, based in Sangli, Maharshtra, fighting for the fundamental rights of prostitutes in their communities and aiding them to live with dignity in a society that views them as less than human, has been instrumental in bringing about the play. Point Of View, a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation that promotes the points of view of women through media, art and culture were one of the organizers too. The play was directed by eminent theatre personality, Sushama Deshpande and conceived by Bishaka Dutta, Meenu Seshu and Divya Bhatia.

Explaining the motive of the play, Durga, one of the members of the cast said, "All we are asking for is recognition as human beings." The idea came about when the actors realised that mass media like movies were portraying them in a wrong and stereotyped colour. "Movies always portray these women as the evil of society who are responsible for spreading HIV AIDS, and hence we are using the help of media like the theatre to stand up against this misrepresentation," said Sashikant Deshpande of Sangram. "It was necessary that the people of the community get to know about the abuse and harassment by the police and customers that they face and what better medium than the theatre," added Raju, son of one of the actors.

The play ended with a standing ovation from the audience who commended the effort made by the artistes and the organizers, and their initiative.

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