Theatre

For a fistful of sky

A scene from the play   | Photo Credit: 12dfrSara ka Saara

“Sara Ka Saara Asmaan”, which was presented by Wings Cultural Society this past week at Muktadhara Auditorium in New Delhi, opens with a scene set in a female ward of a mental asylum. We hear the anguished voices of women, victims of gender oppression. A few appear to be normal but are forced by their relatives to go through the horrors of the psychiatric ward with a view to deprive them of their right to property. Some are cured, waiting to be discharged from the hospital; some are in a pathological psychic state. The frequent movement of the ward attendant reinforces the fear in the gloomy atmosphere. Out of these voices there is heard a voice of protest revealing the wretchedness of a life insulted and humiliated. This is the voice of Sara Shagufta, the late controversial Pakistani poet. Hers is the voice of defiance against patriarchy and its social and moral values that uphold male supremacy. The production sustains the tension of the opening scene throughout, gripping the attention of the audience.

The script is written with sensitivity and deep empathy for the protagonist by Danish Iqbal, seasoned playwright, who had worked hard to collect material about the enigmatic character who led a life of emotional turbulence. His main source for the life and poetry of Sara is a book written by the eminent writer and poet Amrita Pritam. The polite cultural and literary world has not given Sara the place she deserves. Recently, a solo performance by Seema Azmi delineating the life of Sara was staged in Delhi under the direction of Mahesh Dattani. Here, the play is written by Shahid Anwar, eminent playwright and cultural activist.

Mostly drawing from the writings and poems of Sara, Danish has crafted a dramatically tense play that captures the inner turmoil of a poet misunderstood by her contemporaries, imparting it a passionate feminist viewpoint. Instead of following chronological order, he aptly starts his play with the mental asylum scene which, in fact, gives a metaphoric dimension to the condition of women in a society dominated by men.

Directed by Tarique Hameed with finesse, we watch scenes depicting the brutality of her environment and the torture inflicted on her by her different husbands obsessed by male chauvinism. Born in a poor family, she is married at an early age. She discovers her husband is attempting to rape a girl, she retaliates. This rebellion results in a divorce. Then comes a scene where she pleads to take the custody of her children. Her husband accuses her as a wanton woman, morally depraved, and hence children cannot be handed over to her. Submitting counter arguments against her husband, she says she admits to be a promiscuous woman and her husband’s claim to be the father of the children has no legitimate ground. Forced to demean herself so low she manages to gain the custody of her children. Once again, she is cheated by her husband who takes away children from her and poisons their minds about the character of their mother. (Director Tarique told this writer that her close relatives are now changing their opinion about her.)

Once again she marries a poet who tends to be a hypocrite, selfish and broke. In an advance stage of pregnancy with acute labour pain, she goes all alone to the hospital. The baby she delivers dies. Penniless, she manages to come back home. She is shocked to see the callous attitude of her so-called husband. Agonised, she goes inside the room and comes back with a glass of her own milk. She swears by her own milk declaring henceforth she will write poems straight from her heart scarred by a heartless society dominated by men, giving expression to her inner vehemence against patriarchy. This is how a poet is born out of wreckages of emotions .

But this is not the end of her miseries. Her third husband is rich and arch conservative. As a poet and woman Sara finds a true friend in Sayeed. He is sensitive, cultured and respects her as a woman and a poet. It is time for her to be happy. In the company of Sayeed, she experiences rare moments of spiritual elevation. She wants to retain these moments for ever. Yes, she retains these moments for eternity by committing suicide. (In fact, some believe that she died in an accident. The character Sayeed is real and still surviving.)

The play is enacted on a bare stage with minimal use of property. The offstage music subtle lighting and realistic acting style create highly emotional atmosphere on the stage, enabling the performers to bring to the fore the inner conflict of their characters.

In the role of Sara Shagufta, Sukanya Mukherjee creates a credible portrait, vividly bringing alive various emotional layers of her complex character, Tarique Hameed as Sayeed, the sensitive friend of Sara who loves her from the bottom of his heart, and Vinod Kumar B as the pompous, brute and rich third husband of Sara, act admirably.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 6:22:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/for-a-fistful-of-sky/article6683134.ece

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