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Street Play ‘Dastak’: a Knock on the Closed Door-Minds

  • IWB Post
  •  December 10, 2014


When artist Arvind Gaur’s Delhi based Asmita Theatre group came all the way to Jaipur to perform in Jaipur Theater Festival, we knew something provoking and soul-thrilling is on its way. On its 2 day in the Pink city, the group performed in various colleges, schools, shopping malls, societies, and roadside. The caravan is famous for performing socio-political acts that no doubt, inspire the spectators.


In Jaipur they did acts like ‘Budhapa’, ‘Dastak’ and ‘Court Marshal’. Yesterday we wrote about ‘Budhapa’, in this blog we will talk about their awesome musical women-oriented play ‘Dastak’. We accompanied them during their performance at MNIT, Jaipur and Cambridge Court School, Mansarovar. Dressed in black, the 45 young men and women were filled with enthusiasm. With drum-beats and loud claps, they collected students around them and began to enact.




The boys formed the outer circle were showing the ugly face of the society, and the girls encircled inside were displaying the plight of an Indian woman. The boys began to sing Bollywood songs meant to attract a girl’s attention. This included – ‘Tan tanatan tantan tara, chalti hai kya 9 se 11’, etc. They showed a boy eve-teasing a girl on streets, and how this girl threatens him. At that, the boy gets angry and says touching is not raping, and throws acid on her face to take revenge.


Poor girl, she was left alone in the street while the other actors covering their eyes shouted: ‘We haven’t seen anything’. Isn’t it what we all do? We see street harassment every now and then and still we keep mum. This question echoed in our soul at the very moment.

The other half focused on domestic violence and female foeticide simultaneously. It showed the demon side of the husband beating his wife when she refused to abort her girl child. After this, the actors showed even if we let the girl born, how the child sexual-abusers destroy the life ahead. This part, in particular, was one of the most striking features while performing at the school. The kids attending it were from class 6 to 12, and we saw how their expressions changed as soon as the child sexual harassment was being showcased. Maybe, some of them could relate to it.


Of course, the end of the play was powerful enough to bring tears in eyes. The speaker at the end raised few questions asking the public: ‘Who are we tell women what to wear, even an infant is raped who is not exposing intentionally?’, ‘Who are we to limit a woman’s freedom and ask her not to travel at night?’ and lastly – ‘Why be silent?’ This play really was a dastak – a knock on the closed door-minds of the society asking them to raise a voice against the violence.

Their play’s anthem was the famous poem written by Shankar Shailendra during Indian independence. Listening to it was like a fire burning in our veins with a fierce determination to be the change. Here are few lines:

“Tu zinda hai, tu zindagi ki jeet par yakeen kar. Agar Kahin hai Swarg to, Utar la zammen par”


Before we bid goodbye to the team, we popped up few questions to know their view on this whole disgusting rape culture. Definitely, enacting the same slogan so many times in a day must have brought some valuable weight in their thoughts.

Prashant, Shreya & Nishant

Prashant, Shreya & Nishant

JWB – We call the rape survivor a ‘victim’. Do we treat her like one?

Priyanka Bhoj – Sadly, we do. Even our generation seems to have this narrow mindset where rape survivor is no less than a germ that is infected physically and spiritually.

JWB – And you are determined to change something through your nukkad-naataks.

Shiv – If 100 are watching us enact, I am sure at least 10 are shaken from inside, and become the change.

JWB – While performing in Jaipur for these 2 days, we want to know the reaction of male spectators.

Nishant – The 1st half of Dastak is funny for them. While we sing and tease women actors showing street harassment, the public laughs as if it’s a comedy show. As we come closer to the end with our message showing how women go through all the sh*t, the viewers’ silence represents their pain for such victims.

JWB – Any memorable male reaction so far?

Prashant – During one act while we were showing rape scene where all the boys cover the female protagonist, suddenly a male onlooker broke our act and came to save the female actor. I felt we have won that day.

JWB – How do you picturize the modern Indian woman?

Shreya – Someone who seeks freedom.

JWB – What lies in the root of the rape culture?


Priyanka Bhoj & Shiv Shanker

Priyanka Bhoj & Shiv Shanker

Shreya – The upbringing of boys is wrong. Do you remember the primary class textbooks that say – ‘Ram pustak padh raha hai aur Meenu jhadu laga rahi hai’. Arey, why only the girl is brooming while the boy has the privileged to go to the school? The basic foundation has been wrongly laid.

That’s a food for thought.

By Lavanya Bahuguna,


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