Bombay Showcase

In celebration of loitering

The script is woven together from rich autobiographical material provided by the 12-member cast.— Photos: Tanvi Shah  

theatrical documentary performance Loitering will be staged on March 8, International Women’s Day. Directed by Satchit Puranik, the play is about personal stories in public spaces and gets its actors to delve into their own experiences. The script has been stitched together from rich autobiographical material provided by Puranik’s diverse 12-member cast, which includes seven women and five men.

Actor Veena Nair, who made her acting debut with the film Court , is part of Loitering . She says, “When I was a child, my mother was never afraid of where I had wandered off. She knew that I would be playing somewhere, and would come home eventually. But I don’t feel safe about my daughters being on their own. They are eight and 12 years old. I am worried even while sending them to tuition classes. The idea that someone might do something to them is a very real fear.” A single woman, Nair makes her living acting in advertisements and doing voice-overs. Separated from her husband, Nair’s priority is her two daughters. It’s this story that is also now part of the play. She says, “Though I am protective of my daughters, I want them to have fun. I want them to be brave. When they grow older, and have boyfriends, I want them to feel comfortable telling me about it.”

Complex relationships

It’s these complex relationships and emotions that form the core of Puranik’s play. He has been interested in gender issues for several years, but this performance took shape only after he began to engage deeply with the 2011 book, Why Loiter ?: Women and Risk on Mumbai Streets, by Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan, and Shilpa Ranade. The book is both a study of how women from different classes and communities access public spaces, and a celebration of ‘loitering’ by Indian women to reclaim their right to use these spaces. Puranik, who trained in film direction and editing at the Film and Television Institute, Pune, and worked in documentary theatre in Amsterdam, also credits Why Loiter: The Movement, an activist project co-founded by Neha Singh and Devina Kapoor that organises groups of young women who loiter in public places.

Puranik says, “I wanted to take the essence of the idea of loitering, and get people to come and speak of their own lives. At first, I thought I would work only with four or five people, else it would turn out to be a production nightmare.” The show is primarily in English, with snatches of Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, and Tamil woven in. “As things went along, people and ideas got added. The conversation around inclusion and exclusion has now moved beyond gender to encompass class, caste, language, religious identity, and even the clothes you are wearing. Whether you are handicapped, Dalit, Muslim, fat, hairy, or from the Northeast: all these associations have a bearing on people’s access to public spaces.”

Pradnya Bhatawadekar, another actor from Court , is part of Loitering . Puranik met both Bhatawadekar and Nair while working on Chaitanya Tamhane’s award-winning film as casting director. Bhatawadekar says, “I want everybody to get their deserved share. Why should women be treated as secondary citizens?” In the play, she will be seen in conversation with her husband Prakash, an electronics engineer who runs his own business. They will be sharing experiences about their relationship with their daughters who study in the United States. “We are both senior citizens now. I have taught my daughters to take charge of their own lives. I will not force them to do anything. They have to make their own path, and be prepared for the consequences. I did the same. I used to be a clerk in a government office but there was no satisfaction in that job, so I left it to pursue my dreams.”

Puranik will also make an appearance in the show in what he describes as “a woman’s costume”. “We have used loitering as a structuring device in the play. That has been challenging. As a theatre actor, you are always told: Don’t loiter on stage. If you are moving from Point A to Point B, the intention has to be clear, the tension has to show. We want people to think about why it is considered alright for a woman to loiter if she is going to the Siddhivinayak temple, and not if she is alone in a park without any agenda.”

Loitering will be staged at 7.30 pm, at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA on Tuesday March 8. Tickets available on

The author is a freelance writer

The play aims to take the essence of the idea of loitering, and get people to speak of their lives

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2021 12:00:59 PM |

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