Play within a play

The Coimbatore Book Club Theatre Group’s latest production, Mangalam, dealt with the exploitation of women

July 30, 2012 07:34 pm | Updated 08:17 pm IST - COIMBATORE:

Getting the act together A scene from Mangalam Photo: M. Periasamy

Getting the act together A scene from Mangalam Photo: M. Periasamy

After treating theatre enthusiasts of the city to a medley of plays over the years, the Coimbatore Book Club Theatre Group returned this time with its 15th production, Mangalam . Written by playwright and children’s writer Poile Sengupta, Mangalam is based on domestic violence, marital infidelity and exploitation of women across ages, cultures and societies. It won a special award at The Hindu-Madras Players Playscripts competition in 1993 and was published in Body Blows , an anthology of plays by women playwrights.

Mangalam is a play within a play. In Act II, a progressive, urban family discusses a play they have seen the previous day . “ Everything about the play was false,” says Suresh, to his mother, who is a friend of the playwright. “It was just a thunder and lightning script, a commercial film script, the dabbawallah type. You think real people actually speak that way to each other?” he asks.

Incidentally, Act I turns out to be the play they have seen. It is about a conservative, middle-class Tamil Brahmin family that is mourning the loss of the mother, Mangalam, who has been a victim of domestic abuse for 31 years. When Mangalam’s sister Thangam arrives, skeletons tumble out of the closet.

As the family continues to discuss the play, it dawns on the mother and her daughter Sumathi that their lives are no different to the characters they have been commenting on. Disturbing truths about their own family are revealed. They realise that like Mangalam and Thangam, they too are helpless.

Lingering lines

The play is full of lines that stay with you long after it is over. “A woman who allows herself to be soft, who relinquishes her weapons gets chewed up…It’s a terrible state to be in.” “Because a woman has patience, she is not allowed to speak. Others speak for her, and she never learns the words.” The evening concludes with Poile Sengupta's poem. “As for women, the gods said, ‘Let them be strong rooted, like trees’. For it is they who shall hold the ends of the world together.”

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