The ‘all-women’ play staged in the city depicted a constant conflict of some serious issues and had brilliant performances by the actors

As the play progressed one couldn’t help but make oneself more comfortable in the chairs of the auditorium, pesky mosquitoes all around notwithstanding. The camaraderie of the entire cast was infectious. When the loyal house maid gives her married-life ‘salaah’ to a starry-eyed would-be-bride, the auditorium reverberated with laughter. She says, “mard shaadi ke baad bistar se jyada, dastkhan, phir dastkhan se jyada kabootar khana pasand karte hain.” (After marriage, a man spends more time at the dining table than the bed, then the pigeon house more than the dining table.).

The play Birjees Qadar Ka Kunba was different not just because it was an all-women cast but also because after a long time the audience got to watch a meaningful power-packed performance put up by a local production house.

All-women cast? Well almost, the only man was Bhaskar Shiwalkar and no one could have done better justice to the role he played as the silver-haired nani in a red sequined ghagra dreaming of marrying and having babies one after the other. She was perhaps partly affected by Alzheimer’s because she failed to recognise one of her granddaughters. Or was it because it was a night scene in a village? Whatever be the reason, nani was adorable.

The play, a tale exclusively about women was originally written as ‘La Casa de Bernarda Alba’ by Federico García Lorca in the 1930s as part of his now famous, ‘Rural Trilogy’. This play was later translated into English as ‘The House of Bernarda Alba’.

The curtains open to the house of Birjees Qadar, the matriarch of the clan who recently lost her second husband and declares an eight-year long mourning for the survivors and members of her family. She lives in the house with her five daughters and two baandis (house help).

The story is about repression, rebellion, love, sibling rivalry, lust, betrayal and conceit.

So deprived are the young women of the house that the only way to see men is through their window. And as the eight-year of mourning passes by, the girls lose out on their precious ‘marriageable’ age. Suitors come and go but eventually settle for wealthy ‘badsoorat ladki.’ One suitor even flirts with one of the girls saying “mere bachon ki ammi bano, meri begum bano’ but when it’s time to marry, he settles for a wealthy girl from the neighbourbood.

The play has its intense moments leaving the audience to think about repression; the actors play their part well in emoting lust, anger, jealousy and yearning for a man in their lives. Lines like ‘burhi suwarni ke jaisa sungti phirti ho’ to the maid(s) showed the treatment meted out to the working classes.

As the play progresses one sees the problem which is brewing up in the suppressed household. The step sister’s nikaah not only makes the others jealous but also shows how two other sisters are ready to do anything to get him. So much so that one of the younger girls has a secret affair with the step-sister’s fiancé. On the fringes, the play also reflects homosexuality.

As Birjees, Vaishali Bisht did total justice to the role, in the way she walks and reclines on the charpoy, the ‘tooth-picking’ and spitting of food particles after dinner. The detailing in each body movement showed how the actors worked on their part to make it appear real life. The only gesture which gave away Vaishali’s urban background was the ‘Hollywood styled’ goodnight kiss to her daughters.

Sets, background music, costumes, actors all put together: Subhan Allah!