Theatre

Cleaning the clutter

PROFOUND MESSAGE A scene from Sakubai   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

This past weekend, the Delhi theatregoers were virtually swept away by Nadira Zaheer Babbar’s Hindi comedy play Sakubai. Wielding the broom, the domestic help, through a powerful narrative, penned by Nadira, brought to fore several ills confronting our society such as child labour, sexual abuse, marital violence and double standards being followed. Monika Misra, the veteran actor, enacting the title role of the quintessential help in a happy-go-lucky and feisty style made it so impactful that she won the audience appreciation spontaneously.

That is not all, she essayed several other characters besides that of Sakubai, Be it the small kid Rocky Baba or Ajay Kapoor who is cheating on his wife or for that matter a naughty bhabhi and Khanna Madam, the kitty party type who can’t get over stealing, among several others, each character kept the story alive and engaging.

Excerpts:

What did you find challenging in Sakubai?

Sakubai is a simple and sweet story of a maid. In spite of so many struggles in life she doesn't fail, she solves her problems as well as that of others and becomes a role model for many. I found the role very interesting and challenging. Being an artist, I always love to do strong and different types of roles and Sakubai gives me a feel of fulfilment in that sense.

What does the play stand for?

Sakubai is a hard working woman and instead of crying and complaining like others on her poverty and difficult circumstances, she chooses to change the situation through hard work. Wielding a broom, the symbol of cleanliness and hard work she feels she can change all the negativities. Although illiterate, she has practical knowledge of life and sometimes her questions leaves one stumped, making many wonder if their action is right or not.

Sakubai has been exposed to negativities in her life since childhood, yet instead of giving up she focusses on the positive aspects. For example, when her mother sent her brother to a English medium school she asks whether the English teacher also teaches Hindi in their schools? And if not, then why we Indians, without any respect for our national language, are running after a foreign language. Sakubai couldn’t study because her mother thought only boys should study. She breaks this orthodox concept by working hard to send her daughter to school who after achieving a high position in society asks her mother to study.

In another instance, when Sakubai’s memsaab wants to leave home on being beaten by her husband who is having an extra marital affair, she forbids her. She reminds her that she has equal right on the house.

Being a happy go lucky woman, she battles throughout her life without complaining or giving in and thus turning her sorrows in happiness.

She does her job by laughing, singing and dancing along with her broom, telling stories that are hilarious and emotional.

Even while remembering the past she doesn’t get bogged down as she knows life would always find a way.

How does the the play highlights the ills of the society?

Sakubai impersonates her husband, showing how anybody could manipulate a simple man into doing wrong deeds. Similarly, by imitating children of rich people shows how food is wasted while poor kids run after her for getting some biscuits.

Making a pun on the ways of the worlds, she narrates to the audience that she used to chant Sai Baba's prayers but even in his temple people are pushed and shooed away to make way for the rich. Through wit and humour she draws viewers attention to these aspects.

She also draws from from her life to drive home the point. Forced to work since childhood, she pays her brother’s fees while being denied education. She is raped by her own uncle at a very young age. So through her own story she shares the pain with audience while stressing not to suffer atrocities.

Is there space for such women-centric plays?

Women centric plays with strong social message like Sakubai work as an eye opener and give strength to women to raise their voice against crime. She reflects on the gender inequality and how men are always considered superior to women. The play displays the terrible but true image of men and how they can raise hand even on their loved ones.

How did you rehearse for so many characters?

It takes a long time to prepare for a solo show as you have to act out all the roles. It took me six months to prepare for the show and I am still improving with each one.

All my characters and their body language are inspired by real people whom I meet in daily life. It's must to make all the characters alive and different so that the audience can relate to them and enjoy.

I am not a professionally trained actor and for me the world is my school and everyday, everywhere I learn be it in a Metro or a marketplace or a temple. I love watching cartoons like Shinchan and Buddh Aur Badri and in fact observe them too. While impersonating Rocky baba, who loves watching cartoons and cricket, I took cues from my son.


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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 9:59:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/cleaning-the-clutter/article23835227.ece

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