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Lifting the veil

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POIGNANT A scene from
POIGNANT A scene from "30 Days in September" by the Asmita theatre group.

ROMESH CHANDER

Arivnd Gaur's "30 Days in September" is worth watching.

Dattani builds his play around child abuse and tries to lift the veil on the hush-hush subject.

A little over a year ago, I had read Mahesh Dattani's "30 days in September" and was much impressed by its theatrical potential and was keen to see it on the stage. As luck would have it, "30 Days in September" was on the boards in New Delhi this past week. Translated in Hindi by Smita Nirula, and directed by Arvind Gaur, it was presented by Asmita, a leading theatre group that stands committed to socially relevant theatre. After having seen the play I once again read the original English version to see how far the presentation was relevant for the Hindi audience and I am happy to report that the play went down exceedingly well with the average Hindi audience as was very much obvious from the 25-minute audience discussion after the show.Dattani builds his play around child abuse, particularly sexual abuse, and tries to lift the veil on the hush-hush subject through Mala who lives with haunting memories of her past inflicted, as is common, by a relative, in this case her uncle. Mala's role was well played by one of Asmita's senior actors, Pushpraj Rawat. Dattani so develops the plot that all through the play, Mala lives with the haunting memories of her past. Perhaps, without being conscious of it, the uncle has permanently damaged her development with the result that she cannot pursue her love interest beyond 30 days, psychologically hinted at by her underlining a particular date on the calendar. Yet another sensitively projected character is that of Mala's mother, Shanta played with immense control by Seema Mittal, one of our top actors on the Hindi stage. To watch her facial expression, living her own silent pain was indeed a rewarding experience for the audience.As we go along, we hear meaningful lines in Hindi as written by Smita Nirula and well spoken by the cast. For instance, when Mala and her mother are blaming each other and Mala says to her mother, "Once we were talking about a rape case that was in the papers. You said something about children also not being safe...Then I told you about what happened to me. But you changed the subject...That time I wondered if it was I or did I imagine it all? Surely not. No, it did happen.""Forget all these bad dreams," says the mother. "Every time uncle visited us it would happen...whenever I told you, you always said eat well and go to sleep, the pain will go away... Yes it did go away but it always comes back." There was yet another most powerful scene when the mother tells her daughter what she had seen. "You were pushing yourself in the bedroom, you were asking him to kiss you, to touch you, to pinch you... I also remember when your cousin came for his holidays...you wanted my brother and your cousin dancing around you. How can I forget"? Yet another beautiful sequence essayed with immense control is when the mother finally says, "Don't talk about it, forget the pain... try to forget the pleasure." "But the pleasure is part of the pain," says Mala. The mesmerising music by Sangeeta Gaur builds up the atmosphere.As we move towards the end, the playwright has some surprises for us, but the evening I saw the play, I felt the pace could have been a little faster and perhaps could do with a little editing. The last few minutes, however, will remain with us forever, and so will Mala's anger. There is dead silence for a few seconds as the audience stands up and then a burst of applause as Arvind Gaur in his usual style of always being in a hurry walks up the stage and invites the audience for a discussion... once again. A silence for a few seconds, and then a burst of frank comments and questions, particularly from the youth.

Repeat show

The play is on the boards again at SRC on April 15 and must not be missed for it is an aspect of life around us that must be exposed and fought.


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