Voices - A call to wake-up
the illustrious daughter of the celebrated Mrinalini Sarabhai needs no
introduction to the lovers of Indian dance. Mallika has carved a niche
in the field of contemporary dance and theatre as an activist for humanitarian
causes. She shot into limelight enacting the role of Draupadi in Peter
Brook's theatre epic Mahabharata, launching feministic stance in modern
dance, way back in 1980. Sita's Daughters established her as the archetype
of the modern Indian woman. As a dancer, stage and film actress, social
activist, choreographer and writer, the many-faceted Mallika has pushed
the frontiers of art. For her, art with a social purpose is the highest
form of art. As co-director of Darpana Dance Academy founded by her mother,
Mallika Sarabhai has always been dedicated to her craft and the causes
she espouses. Burning issues are highlighted in the exquisite nritya of
the Sarabhai repertoire.
- Padma Jayaraj,
Unsuni is a
physical, musical theatre piece based on Harsh Mandar's book Unheard Voices.
The piece is a collage that comes alive in visuals that shows India's marginalized
segments. It gives voice to millions of voiceless people through a series
of monologues. They are the unseen: the real lives of the faces and hands
of people whom we ignore in our daily encounters. In a captivating performance,
we meet people who have confronted life on their own terms but have never
accepted fate lying down. These are stories of struggle and courage. And
The stage is already
set before you are seated. An urban slum on the backyard of a city is an
eyesore for those who depend on the help that come from there. Lights fall
to reveal a dawn. Prayer is integral to religious India: the sounds bring
in Hindu prayers while we see a Muslim woman at prayer on the stage. The
young, sleeping in the open, are just waking up. The day begins for them
indicating scarcity of water in the land of the Ganga and the Yamuna. A
multi-cultural humanscape is a pan India phenomenon that the choreographer
uses to give a national dimension to her piece. We find their joy and vigour
in the magic of their life-sustaining Bollywood, another misrepresentation
of the real India.
the glamorous icons of modern urban India, the characters that represent
the real India are etched like thumbnail sketches. Truth is stranger than
fiction is what we learn as the choreographer presents the untold stories
from the unknown lives of the masses of our country. We realise that here
is real India: her people who have inherited her spirit in their zest for
life despite poverty; her mettle to fight despite all odds that official
India thrust upon; her centuries old humanism.
the street children, a rag-picker stands out to tell his tale. And his
story, like those in our epics goes on to narrate stories of other street
children. They have come from loveless homes weighed down by riches or
poverty to find happiness in companionship even as they are victimised.
The stories take us from the urban streets to rural India, a reminder of
the real problems that India faces.
of the next tale represents the landless tribal and village farmer who
move from pillar to post for justice. Forceful evacuation from land and
livelihood is another government sponsored man-made tragedy today. The
milk of human kindness, though a trickle, co-exists with corruption to
vindicate human dignity, is an enduring slice of life.
The third scene
is a riot-affected part of India. It is a grim reminder of the tragedy
of the Partition of the Subcontinent, a still haunting ghost even after
50 years of freedom. How fear rules, how the good become weak and how intimidation
makes the victims turn hostile is too real to question.
be an aberration. But, the poignant scene tells us to be on our guard.
the monologue of Narayanamma, a scavenger. Statistics, although negative,
are heard in the background announcing the selfless work of countless NGOs.
That legal landmarks fail in a feudalistic India is another exposure. The
scavenging women in modern India, is a shameful disclosure of the inhuman
violence that is part of our lives. The woman narrates her harrowing tale
to tell of gender, domestic and caste oriented discrimination in our country.
Then the leper
comes in the focus. After all, he is a human being. A social outcast also
is human enough to fall in love, marry and bring up his son sacrificing
much more than normal parenting demands. The struggle to rehabilitate lepers
by a single person that snowballed shows what we can do for our country
to bring the suffering masses to the mainstream. The play sends a hopeful
and powerful message, as real stories are the source. It is a call to wake-up.
Music and dance
enliven the drama of life. Powerful dramatic monologues with flashbacks
and short scenes make the show livelier. The endearing spirit of innocent
children with their irrepressible joy in life is communicated by energy
packed dance that the youth love so much. The scenes are intersected by
fast-paced rhythmic gestures reminiscent of Bollywood. The idiom of Bollywood
music and dance acquire an ironic twist. This is an ingenuous technique
in the production.
and sound fall in place, deepening irony and meaning. Sound, and flickering
moving lights in pitch darkness speak of the horror of murder and arson
during riots. Costumes, simple and revealing, add shades of meaning. The
75- minute powerful production, without intermission kept the audience
riveted. That the show presents both sides of the coin is remarkable. It
sensitizes the audience tempering with hopes.
of Performing Arts has a social cause in mind as they aim to start a volunteer
movement with the performance of Unheard Voices. There is the Hindi version,
UNSUNI. They are giving the script to local talents with the right to produce
the piece so that the volunteer movement will gather momentum. "This is
our 42nd presentation and we are targeting schools and colleges to sensitize
the youth to the crying need of the hour," said a proud Mallika Sarabhai
as she thanked institutions like the UTI Bank, Jet Airways and VSNL for
sponsoring her shows.
project launches a movement in India: a movement of saying I care, a movement
of showing we care, of knowing that everyday each of us can make a difference.
A new website
www.unsuni.net has been
set up to help bring people together and coordinate actions.
Jayaraj is a freelance journalist. She covers fine arts and travel for
The Hindu, and is a regular contributor to narthaki.com