‘Joni’ is the latest production of Kasba Arghya, which has caused a silent quake in the theatre world, directed by Manish Mitra this production is bound to unsettle our deaf submission to the system. This play is uninfluenced by the traditional theatrical thoughts in a way that it ambushes our regular sly patriarchal social system. Inspired by Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ from the Broadways, this production is far from a mere translated adaptation; the quality of the composition of the production marks it as distinctly Indian. This play follows a western expressionism, which exposes the patriarchal molestations through a clean and fluent celebration of sexuality. This production also clashes with the eastern conservative tendencies. Where pronouncing a word related to vagina creates major discomfort, where Vagina is worshipped as the symbol of strength, where it doesn’t take a moment’s thought to sabotage the same vagina; in recent Indian context, this play emerges as a burning protest.
Previous Kaahon Theatre Review:
The play is constructed from different monologues, and each monologue depicts an experience of different age, but threaded by the same subject; exploitation of vagina. Needless to say in the opposition persists a man to whom women are nothing but vaginas wound in flesh. Before she’s even matured a woman has to endure Male lust, and when she enters maturity she has to face questions about her vagina’s intactness. And the perpetrators of these questions are responsible for countless sabotaged vaginas. A woman doesn’t escape her faith even when she crosses her youth, or even when she is old. Even after such sufferings, it’s the women who are forced to take the burden, she has to endure all, alone in secrecy. It is a rotten social system.
The director has captured the sense of celebration and assault of female sexuality with wonderful aestheticism, there are a few intimate scenes especially the scene of the cunnilingus has acquired spellbinding aestheticism through its unique way of presentation. I don’t know if anyone else has dared to imagine such scenes in Indian or Bengali theatre without crossing the designated line of modesty. The use of Rabindrasangeet along with the poems of Jibanananda Das and its physiological music creates a beautiful contrast.
The incredible solo acting of Meri Acharya is the binding factor of this production, her acting has perfectly materialised the subject matter on stage. Her maturity at the age of seventeen places her in such esteem that she is already considered a valuable jewel of Kasba Arghya and the whole Bengali theatre so to speak. Her voice, body language, and expression borders towards perfection. She has all the attributes that a complete actress might need.
The lights, music, and the stage all are in perfect accordance with the presentation. The presence of Shiva Lingamon the right, and a symbolic vagina made of three sticks on left of the stage indicates the polar position of two sexes. In the beginning the Shiva Lingamworshipping creates a foreshadowing for the burning lamp left under the symbolic vagina, which resonates with women empowerment and takes a firm stand against fundamentalist patriarchy. The expression and the presentation of the play are very modern, and it forces us to see our patriarchal reflection. It is capable of bringing tears at times, and the play is just as capable to bind its audience in spellbinding stillness. The magic doesn’t end after the curtains are dropped, and it takes a while longer to find one’s way out of the theatre; as it keeps on playing again and again in the mind and senses. Manish Mitra, Meri Acharya, and every member of the group deserves a grand salute for gifting us a play of such calibre.
In conclusion, all that can be said is; if this effort succeeds in raising awareness that will be the epitome of success for this production.
Translation: Harit Chowdhury
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