Theatre

Revealing reality

A scene from the play. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: 08dfr bajeli

“Aur Ek Sacch” presented by Indian Peoples Theatre Association, Delhi, to mark its 50th anniversary at India Islamic Cultural Centre this past week brought to the fore the untold sufferings of old women as well as the brutal sexual exploitation of minor girls and young women in a society dominated by men and superstition. Remarkable for its directorial deftness, the production projected effectively facets in the lives of women condemned to suffer with little power to retaliate.

Author Ismat Chughtai's short story “Dozakh-Hell” inspired playwright director Aziz Quraishi to write “Aur Ek Sacch” through the female point-of-view in a broader social perspective.

A newspaper story about a minor who died after being assaulted by her husband on the nuptial night evokes a sense of horror and disgust. The narrative then presents a dialogue between a school teacher and a village head about female infanticide causing serious misbalance in the male-female ratio. Far from listening to the teacher with the seriousness the issue demands, the village head keeps staring at a newlywed beautiful woman.

Then we see the dwelling place of Baba Nade Shah, a debauch wearing the cloak of religion, claiming to cure patients suffering from all kinds of diseases, specially infertility. While he seduces most credulous women, a few are bold enough to expose him. He, however, manages to prove his innocence through foxy tactics.

However, the main thrust is on the appalling conditions in which two old women live. Their world is aptly described as “Dozakh-hell.” They are widows and abandoned by their families and the State has stopped playing its role of provider of shelter to the poor and old. They live on crumbs given to them by neighbours. They are terrified of a future which offers them nothing but slow, painful death. They live in the past with mixed memories, sweet and bitter. Suffering from all kinds of age-related illnesses and infirmities, they seek shelter in a deserted, dilapidated room. They wear rags and their beds are rotten.

What engages our attention is the way these haggard, semi-starved and utterly neglected women quarrel among themselves, each trying to outdo the other in the use of bitter, insulting and filthy language. When tired they take rest and then start their verbal battle all over again. Despite the heated and acrimonious exchange of words there runs between them a tender relationship, a bond that is difficult to snap. Given a chance to leave the dingy room and shift to another place, they would refuse the offer.

The play opens with a projection on the screen with two characters — a male character personifying time and another a woman embodying the universal suffering of women. They discuss gender bias in society and then the focus shifts to live action on the stage. The production culminates with the comments of Time and the woman on the need for a meaningful and emotionally fulfilling relationship between man and woman based on mutual respect.

A veteran actress of stage and radio, Suchitra Gupta's appearance on the screen animates the show. Her accent is impeccable and she delivers her lines with feeling and conviction. In fact, she sets the tone for the production — serious, restrained and intense. Aziz Quraishi in a variety of roles gives a commendable performance. Charu Madan and Ashima Pandey in the roles of two old women give brilliant performances — such performances are rare in amateur theatre of Delhi.


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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 9:49:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Revealing-reality/article15772007.ece

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