Gargi College’s interactive play on women is one to watch out for

Sappho, Gargi, Kannagi and Portia together in a play that travels through time. That’s the gist of Dastaan-e-Nisvaan, a play created as part of a university project researching the role of women as game changers.

The play, directed by Ishwar Shunya, debuted last week at Gargi College and has played before a Delhi University audience earlier this week.

It will soon be staged across venues in the Capital. Forty students of Gargi College have researched the characters and evolved the script through deliberations over the past seven months. Most of those involved are rookies on stage.

“The story starts from the protests against the gang-rape,” explains Shunya, “It begins with students debating whether or not to participate in the protests but soon delves into broader themes like female foeticide and the ideas of justice.” The four characters – Greek poetess Sappho, Vedic age philosopher Gargi, Kannagi, the Tamil idol of chastity and courage and Portia from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice – provoke a debate among the audience as they progress with the narrative.

The plot has three settings – the Vedic age, a village and a contemporary Indian town.

“Portia plays the role of a lawyer in a case of a woman accused of murdering her granddaughter. She asks questions like what should justice be and, is capital punishment the final solution,” adds Shunya. The props and sets are minimal, like most of Shunya’s works. The focus is on the dialectic. This is accompanied with live Indian contemporary and folk music. In the Kannagi act, there is also a Bharatnatyam performance.

Theatre connoisseurs will find it interesting to watch how the cast steers the plot through a debate with the audience. Shunya usually encourages discussions after his plays on social issues. This endeavour maybe a game changer for campus theatre in general, and Shunya in particular.