Friday Review

The unbearable otherness of being

Gidagiduga – the tree and the vulture – had its first show at Ranga Shankara last week. Originally written in English as Flypaper Trap by Swati Simha, the play translated into Kannada by Varaavara and directed by Karen D’mello, is rooted in the present and is themed around the question of xenophobia in our society, and the policing of women’s bodies as a means of perpetuating religious otherness.

The protagonist is a young girl, Puttani who lives with her brother and her conservative father. She goes to school with a boy from a low income Muslim family and shares an easy friendship with him. The plot unfolds as the girl struggles to comprehend the changes in her body, her thoughts and feelings and her family’s reaction to her friendship with this boy. For its meticulous script that unfurls the very real occurrences in society as we see it, for its non-monolithic characters and the conviction of the actors in bringing forth the layered nature of each character, and for the ingenuity of direction that highlights the violence by understating it, Gidagiduga is not the average social play.

The stage is divided laterally into three sections and the sets are almost completely permanent: stage-left is Puttani’s bedroom with her bed and a window that looks onto the world beyond – it’s a very private space; centre-stage is a more fluid space that doubles up as the classroom that Puttani and Kamaal share and also as the space dividing their two worlds; at stage-right is Kamaal’s whom whose parents make a living by trading in recyclable goods. With its disarray and cramped look, this space is starkly different from the first one: apart from the obvious look of poverty, this ‘house’ with its board of ‘Bismillah Paper Mart’ is different for its lack of privacy – although it is the living space of this family of three, it is also a place that is accessible to everyone. It is equally loathsome to the people who live in it and to outsiders for it represents ‘otherness’. This fragmentation was used in spot-lit scene changes that occurred so fast that the parallel nature of their lives was highlighted. The set design is like stick figures in 3D: the frames of things such as a sacred space in an orthodox household, a window, the blackboard etc. communicate effectively through indication. The music which was a simple mood-setting score was sparse and functional.

The dialogues open with the father and daughter – who display more physical intimacy at the beginning before the onset of Puttani’s puberty – playing a game of word association. This is a tool that is used recurrently in the play where the words such as kolaku (filth), hasiru (green), kappe (from), kesari (saffron) are indicative of the xenophobic discourse. The loving father of the motherless Puttani evolves into a more hard-hearted and controlling man as she grows older. It’s interesting to observe that the father insists that he’s raising Puttani ‘as a boy’ only to retract later and impose strict moral codes upon his bewildered daughter who is already confused with the strange things happening to her body. Puttani slips into a form of psychosis owing to her confusions and fears. On the other side, the lesser nature of their lives is comprehended and dealt with differently by Kamaal and his family. The tremendous amount of violence that such a plot entailed was underplayed and circumvented in such a way that it seemed more hard-hitting as the audience was only limited by its imagination.

Gidagiduga, whose title had more alliteration than connotation, proved to be powerful in its capacity to shake and intrigue.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 12:43:59 PM |

Next Story