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Theatre tribute to Aruna Shanbaug

Lushin Dubey has worked with difficult subjectssuch as child abuse in her plays. Photo: V.V. Krishnan  

Theatre personality Lushin Dubey’s upcoming production is based on journalist Pinki Virani’s book on the tragic life of nurse Aruna Shanbaug.

Aruna, even in her comatose state, was looked up to for her resilience and strength and as a grim reminder of the brutality of sexual assault. In 1973, Aruna, a junior nurse in a hospital in Mumbai, was assaulted and raped by a ward boy. The attack robbed her of her sight and hearing and left her paralysed — a state she remained in till her death in May.

Her life has been the subject of many debates dealing with rape and its consequences for the victim and the perpetrator, who walked free after six years in prison.

This all-encompassing perspective is what acclaimed theatre actor-director Lushin Dubey hopes to explore in her next production, which is based on author Pinki Virani’s book Aruna’s Story: The True Account of a Rape and its Aftermath.

Adaptation rights

Dubey had approached Virani for its adaptation several years ago, but it did not work out because the rights to the book were already sold. So Dubey worked on the author’s national award-winning book Bitter Chocolate instead.

“It is a book that talks about child sexual abuse in India, which kind of is like a precursor to rape,” she says.

Once the book deal had expired and since nothing had come out of it anyway, Virani approached Dubey, who was only glad to work on its stage adaptation.

Dubey, whose plays usually deal with contemporary subjects “raging in terms of public interest”, sees Aruna’s life story as an example of what rape can do to a person.

“The central issue is that of rape. But it is also a reflection on us, as a society, which has just accepted it. We are lackadaisical about taking a stand,” she feels. “While the man went free, the woman was put in chains, literally and metaphorically.”

“I have just finished the read. Now, I have to figure out what to do with it. Anybody can tell a story — it is all in the book, but how to tell it is the main challenge,” she says.

A challenge

She stresses the importance of the play being entertaining even when it deals with a dark subject. She gives the example of one of her earlier productions, I Will Not Cry, which dealt with child mortality in India. To make it interesting, she conceived of a TV panel discussion-type presentation.

Besides dealing with the issue of rape, Dubey, who recently staged her solo play Untitled at the Monologue Theatre Festival in Kolkata, hopes to stoke the debate on euthanasia and address the question of what we can do as a society in her upcoming play which will be staged in September in Delhi.


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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 11:57:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/theatre-tribute-to-aruna-shanbaug/article7500017.ece

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