Theatre

Women before women’s lib

A scene from Sangeet Bayaa Daar Ughad. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: 2mail_grdcv

The concept of women’s lib gained widespread attention in recent times; but that does not mean it was unheard of earlier. Women being considered inferior to men, having to bend over backwards to accommodate societal requests and needing to kowtow to irrational norms are issues that are still relevant.

There were women in earlier times who didn’t quite take things lying down. Like the Marathi women saints who used abhangs to convey their angst. They may not have questioned the human male; instead they directed their questions to Lord Vittal.

The abhangs of women saints like Kanhopatra, Nagi, Vithabai and Bahina are an eloquent commentary on the woes of a woman’s existence. For example, Soyarabai asks why a woman should be considered untouchable during her menstrual cycle when it is responsible for her being a creator. Bahinabai expresses her desire to dance freely without society frowning on her. For Janabai, who worked as domestic help, Vittal was a companion with whom she shared her daily mundane life.

Their abhangs describe the women’s desire to be free from the shackles that bound them unfairly. Awishkar’s sangeet drama Sangeet Bayaa Daar Ughad, directed by Sushama Deshpande, brings these questions and desires on stage. As Deshpande says “Times have changed drastically but, at many junctures, women are still searching for their identity and self-respect. Even today, there are many questions, doubts and conventions that bind their existence. This play — though it’s from the older era — is relevant in contemporary times too. It is not a religious play, rather a social one presented in a poetic form. I’m sure the message will appeal to women of today who’ll find a reflection of their own queries in those expressed by the saints of an earlier era.”

Bottomline: An eloquent commentary on the woes of a woman’s existence.

Sangeet Bayaa Daar Ughad

Where: Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai

When: September 4

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 2:46:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/women-before-womens-lib/article3839626.ece

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