S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

A Different Kind of Festival


By Saindhavi Venugopal

Dolls was the title of a series of six monologues by six women presented by Crea Shakthi on 29th September at Wandering Artist, an increasingly popular creative space in Chennai. The programme was directed by young theatreperson Dushyanth Gunashekar, and hosted in association with Sakthi Finance, as a part of their Navaratri Festival, ‘Celebrating Shakthi’. These six monologues were on varied themes, each powerfully reflecting aspects of woman's place in the world today. 

Six dolls were innocuously arranged in the middle of the stage, and as each doll was selected by a member of the audience, its owner would then present a monologue. Each doll’s significance to its respective monologue shone through, whether visibly or subliminally. 

The first monologue, presented by Kirthi Jayakumar, drew parallels to the story of rape victim Jyoti Singh, or ‘India’s daughter’. She unreservedly brought out the skewed, perverse ideals of a nation that teaches its women to overcompensate under the guise of ‘safety’ instead of tackling the actual predicament. The delivery of the monologue as poetry, interspersed with lines from the song ‘Yeh Moh Moh Ke Dhaage’ was an intriguing variant from the other, descriptive and narrative, monologues.

Manasvini Ramachandran presented the second monologue, enthralling the audience with a lucid, vivid picture of a millennial woman on a journey to reclaim her roots. From experiencing the restoration of a neglected family temple as a child, to teaching the children in her native village as a grown woman, she seamlessly illustrated her bond with the quaint community strengthening over time. She portrayed a strong, independent urban woman unapologetically claiming her roots with pride while maintaining her progressive outlook on life.

Janaki Sabesh, through her piece, related her aunt’s indefatigable ways of living up to the determination and incessant efforts of one of India’s legends, Sachin Tendulkar. Depicting the similarities in both these individuals, as well as her aunt’s love and admiration for Sachin and his numerous achievements, she described their eventual meeting and its resultant significance to her. She brought out her aunt’s obstinate yet endearing character through light, comedic, one - sided banter and rib - tickling reactions.

The fourth monologue took the engaging shape of a TED talk, its guest, Kadambari Narendran, speaking about her tribulations as a working woman in a modern Indian society. Through droll snippets of conversation with a potential mother-in-law, she brought out the provincial, conservative mindset that still exists with regard to modern, working women in our country. Her sardonic reactions to society’s narrow minded notions surrounding women gave the entire monologue an entertainingly satirical edge.

The theme of appearance versus reality took form in Namita Krishnamurthy’s monologue, where she spoke about struggling with the acceptance of one’s natural self and the staggering amount of pressure imposed upon women to live up to conventional beauty standards in today’s world. Recounting a lamentable event from her childhood, she reminisced about grappling with numerous insecurities that nearly every young girl transitioning into womanhood can relate to.

The final monologue presented by Zarin Shihab essayed a tale of relocation. Though comedic at first, bringing out the horror of her mother, whose daughter was quite taken with the ‘American Dream’, it soon morphed into something akin to a nightmare once reality struck,. She painted a poignant picture of a mother struggling to hold on to what shreds of her culture and integrity she had left as everything she had once known, changed. 

The performances were augmented by the aesthetically compact hall which brought an air of intimacy to the entire ensemble, apt, considering the personal nature of these monologues. Being in such close quarters with each artist served to allow the audience to effortlessly fall into each recounted experience as if it were their own. 

Though each monologue had its distinct charm, the use of dolls as a connecting device led the audience to wonder if it meant to hint at the prevailing dogma of women as mere articles of beauty and docility, even in a society that considers itself progressive. The captivating stories of each of these women bravely contradicted this parochial mindset and made this riveting presentation one that left an evocative impact on each and every member of the audience, in one way or another.

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