A play? Certainly not! It is rather an anthology of life experiences. ‘Irakalodu Mathramalla Samsarikkendathu’ is Thiruvananthapuram- based Abhinaya Theatre Research Centre’s contribution to the ongoing lengthy debate on the safety of women across the country with some fresh insights into some of the violence cases still widely discussed.
The ‘play’ does not have an author, and neither a storyline. It is a compilation of various case studies with contributions from all members of the team based on their own experiences and what they had read and heard. Most of the cases discussed have not made it to ‘Breaking News’ on news channels, as they involve ‘lesser’ individuals and not any prominent social figures.
The play features the lives of six women, enough to present a cross-section of women in the State and the violence they face, mostly sexual.
There is the wife of a famous social worker who lectures on women empowerment in front of every available audience, but treats his wife like trash.
There is a young woman who is sexually abused by her father and hence, mentally distressed. A woman divorced as she could not meet the excessive sexual demands of her abusive husband, a grandmother who awaits the day she could kill the man who raped and killed her eight-year-old granddaughter, a woman facing social ostracism after she was cornered wrongly by the moral police, and finally a sex worker forced into the profession to save the life of her only daughter all march on to the stage and narrate their story.
On the other hand is a section of men who find fault with the way a woman dresses, walks and behaves as an excuse for their sexual excesses and come to the conclusion that women who demand equality are the reason for all that is happening against them in society. One wonders at the ease and naturalness with which the stories are presented. The dialogues lack melodrama and sound like day-to-day conversation.
The thin line between play-acting and reality often fades, and one is drawn into the action and becomes part of it.
The play is a conversation with the male-dominated society, based on the realisation that ‘it is not only the victims who must be talked to’ as the title translates.
The play by Abhinaya is a call for women and men to resist violence against women.