Running Women’s Theatre Group In Kerala, Sudhi And Raji Are Telling Life Stories Of ‘Other’ Women
- IWB Post
- August 13, 2019
It was two decades ago when Sudhi Devayani and Rajarajeswari planned their first play in a small room in their friend’s house as renting a place was financially impossible for them. It was in 1999 that they set up Nireeksha Women’s Theatre. People tried to discourage them, but they went on.
Sudhi is the only woman in her state to have won the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi award for Best Director and has thus directed all the seven plays produced by Nireeksha which Raji (Rajarajeswari) has penned. The performance space of the group is at Pamamcode in Thiruvananthapuram, and in the same compound, Sudhi and Raji live in an eco-friendly house.
They say, their latest play is one of the most exhaustive creations by the duo. It is a story of four women who represent four distinct sections of society – one is Sahira, a pregnant Bengali Muslim. You may be wondering about why is a Bengali in a play that is set in Kerala? “Because of the othering,” said Raji. ‘Othering’ is a word Raji often uses when speaking of women who are ‘others’ in the society.
“How many eyes stare at a woman if she bends to pick something up from the floor? When people talk about CCTV cameras, I tend to laugh thinking that every move made by women is always under the surveillance of society. Society views a woman as an ‘other’, not as one among them,” Raji said.
Another reason to choose a Bengali woman was to portray the life of immigrants who don’t have a place they can call their own.
Every character has its own storyline, like Sahira, who although is 13 months pregnant, does not deliver. “Yes, the 13-month pregnancy was deliberate, to show that she didn’t deliver out of determination,” Raji said.
Another character Kavitha is a Dalit professor who researches the loss of land for the sake of so-called development and how the poor are forced to live on the edge. Jessy, a nurse, scolds the women in the labor rooms when they scream in pain, as for her it is the will of God. But soon we see her questioning the same God for creating men who sexually abuse women.
The last character in the play doesn’t have a name. She is a sweeper, people insult her using different names. The director of the play, Sudhi, plays the part of Kavitha in the play.
“The women in the play have realized all the apprehensions, worries… of the times they live in. The play tries to find how religions are imposing restrictions on women to the extent of making it impossible for them to come out of that. Women need to bear the mark of beliefs and rituals entwined in religions. The women in the play interpret the rituals and the beliefs. It also enables an investigation into how history and religion have defined women. The women finally decide that they won’t sustain anymore as a tool to reproduce for the sake of religion,” she said.
Apart from its plays, Nireeksha also does small projects for the government and Kudumbashree Mission, and the money they get from it, they use to fund their plays. Nireeksha also trains children from nearby poor locality in music, dance, martial arts, and theatre without taking any money from them. The idea is to help children develop a taste for art, Raji said.
H/T: The News Minute