Play that speaks up for the disabled

Lillete Dubey making a point in New Delhi on Wednesday.  

A POWERFUL reflection of modern life in India, the play "Dance Like a Man" has completed more than 200 shows in India and abroad and has received acclaim from audiences and critics alike. It is the story of Jairaj and Ratna, two Bharatnatyam dancers in their prime who are contrasted with their daughter Lata who is on the brink of establishing herself as a brilliant dancer.

However, Lata's imminent success creates tension and jealousy. And playing out these emotions on stage is Lillete Dubey who plays the older Ratna while Suchitra Pillai plays Lata. Joy Sengupta plays the younger Jairaj while Amritlal Parikh is Vijay Crishna. Written by Mahesh Dattani, the play draws audiences into the dark secrets of family relationships and conflicts between generations.

A beautifully crafted play, "Dance Like a Man" will be staged at Kamani Auditorium in New Delhi this Friday as an annual fund-raising event for Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (AADI), which has been trying to propagate the message that people with disability are an integral part of society with equitable access to services and opportunities, enabling them to live life to the fullest.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Ms. Dubey said that "Dance Like a Man" has action moving effortlessly between the past and present and also has three of the seamless actors slipping effortlessly between generations spanning the 1950s until now. "We are very proud to stage the play in support of the rights of persons

with disabilities," she said.

And of course, she was the voice of AADI at the press conference. Formerly known as the Spastics Society of Northern India, the play was an important effort on their part to reach out to the communities, to educate them that disability is first and foremost a human rights issue and "inclusion and empowerment" are the keywords today. There has been a shift from viewing disability from the medical point of view to a social model of disability where the focus is on society to change policy, attitudes and economic discrimination against the disabled. And AADI has been part and parcel of that shift.

The play is in two acts with an intermission of 15 minutes. It has been dubbed the longest running Indian play in English and an original as well. And while it has been staged in support of many movements, its enactment in support of persons with disability is important because even the latter face generational conflicts within families.

As an AADI spokesperson points out: "People with disabilities along with every other person in the remotest corner of India, should have the right as well as opportunity to learn, to work, and to participate in life to the fullest."

By Kannan K.

Photo: R.V. Moorthy