“Kissa Maujpur Ka”, staged by Rangbhoomi, turned to satire to portray patriarchy and the evil of female foeticide

Jayavardhan’s new comedy, “Kissa Maujpur Ka”, presented by Ranghboomi under the auspices of Hindi Akademi Delhi at Shri Ram Centre recently, exposes a society that wants only the male child and prides itself in asserting male chauvinism. To prevent the birth of a girl child it resorts to the heinous crime of abortion of the female foetus. This serious situation is treated with a light touch that keeps the audience amused throughout. But, at the same time, it makes a satirical comment on the patriarchal structure of society in a powerful manner. Interestingly, the play reminds one of American playwright Neil Simon’s play “Fools” which, like the village of Maujpur, is set in a small village in Ukraine, Russia. In Simon’s village everyone is a fool, and in Jayavardhan’s village everyone is a male, and only a few aged, haggard women are seen. The objective of “Fools” is to provide you a fun-filled evening, whereas the inhabitants of Jayavardhan’s Maujpur entertain and finally repent for their follies, conveying a powerful message that both girls and boys are important for the healthy growth of society.

Jayavardhan is a new voice in the world of Hindi comedy. His “Urgent Meeting” exposes the lackadaisical way the so-called expert committees nominated by government agencies function and become a tool in the hands of the bureaucrat. Another popular comedy is “Darogaji Chori Ho Gayi”, which exposes police apathy and incompetence in nabbing culprits. Its popularity lies in its farcical flavour. “Kissa Maujpur Ka” is, essentially, a satire with mordant wit and is highly relevant.

The entire action is set in the village of Maujpur itself. The sleepy village becomes active with the arrival of a doctor. He opens his clinic in the village. Through ultrasound scans, he reveals the gender of the foeti. The parents accept only the male child, and the doctor is in great demand.

Meanwhile, in this all-male population, a macho culture is being promoted. Parents are happy that sons are great assets. After some years, life in the village has become colourless and the villagers are realising they have committed a crime by forcing their wives to terminate their pregnancies. In the eyes of the neighbouring villages, Maujpur has become an object of ridicule. For years no wedding has been celebrated in the village. No outsider is willing to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to the youth of Maujpur because of its notoriety as the enemy of the female gender. Despite their cunning tactics the matchmakers have failed to convince the fathers of girls in neighbouring villages to marry their daughters to the young men of Maujpur. However, a father of three daughters agrees to a marriage proposal, but on conditions that are most humiliating. Submitting to the father’s conditions, after many years a wedding takes place. As part of the condition, the girl brings the wedding procession to the village and the bridegroom goes back to live in the home of bride.

The play is directed by Chitra Singh, an actor-turned director. The scenic compositions are conceived by senior director Banshi Kaul. The sets are designed by well known designer Ved Pohoja of “Andha Yug” and “Tughlaq” fame. The entire stage is transformed into a living village, with various areas like the Panchayat ghar, doctor’s clinic and narrow village roads well thought out. The lighting by R.K. Dhingra, eminent light designer, is subtle. All these theatrical expressive means contribute to create the right ambience.

As a prologue, the play begins with a slide projection illustrating facts and figures about the consequences of terminating the female foetus. While this exercise gives the initial impression that one is watching a propaganda film, the subsequent unfolding of the play makes it clear it’s a comedy with a clear and loud moral message. So the slide projection, while informative, minimises the comic appeal. The purpose of theatre is to delight. Similarly, the denouement is too melodramatic to be convincing. But, on the whole, the director and her cast consisting of senior artistes and promising amateur artistes create a meaningful comedy. There are several awkward situations that evoke laughter. The performers use gags skilfully.

Rohit Tripathi as Hariom, the father of three daughters, is eminently comic. Another aptly cast actor is Madan Dogra as the worried village head who makes his scenes with the villagers convincing. Chandra Kanta N. Tripathi as Laila gives an entertaining dance performance as part of village social life. Rajiv Lochan as Sutradhar, Rakesh Sharma as one of the villagers, Himmat Singh Negi as Lallan Barber, and Sarita Sharma as the daughter of Hariom who turns the tables on her father, act admirably.

Keeping in view the relevance of the play, artistry of experienced actors and production values, there should be more shows of this production.