Why is that when women complain aloud about rape or sexual abuse, it is considered a rant? Why aren’t more women 'ranting'? What are men doing? Shouldn’t they join and create awareness, asks Arnesh Ghose, founder and creative Director of the theatre company, The Mirror Merchants.
The 26 year-old’s stage productions have been vocal about the problems women face: from eve teasing to sexual assault and rape. His last play Murgistaan ran to packed houses in Mumbai. Based on Satyajit Ray’s 1980 film, Hirok Rajar Deshe, it was a comedy with a political subtext. Ray’s film was about subjects in Hirok Deshe who were brainwashed when they spoke against the king’s subversive ways.
“My attempt has been to showcase plays that are socially relevant. Thankfully, I haven’t faced any bans for the topics that I turn the spotlight on,” he says.
Ghose’s The Mirror Merchants has released videos with the tongue-in-cheek title Ball Talks where men talk about sexuality, masculinity and reaction to words and terms associated with women and their bodies.
Ghose’s latest play, Chaarpaai is a compilation of four stories that make you ponder and reflect on the hardships faced by Indian women even today. The stories deal with womanhood, sexuality, identity and how a majority (of men) won’t instill the belief in others of their ilk that women are equal to them.
Bold and hard-hitting, the four short plays are called Khol Do, Pussy Riot, Do Boond Roshni Ki and The Idiots.
Khol Do is an adaptation of Saadat Hassan Manto’s short story, which beautifully portrays the trauma of sexual violence in times of political calamity.
Pussy Riot is a commentary on censorship and how it does not allow for the freedom of expression of women writers, poets and artists around the world, across time.
Do Boond Roshni Ki discusses masculinity and gender roles through the eyes of a eunuch and a prostitute who fall in love and can see themselves as entities beyond bodies.
The Idiots is a tongue-in-cheek comedy about escapism, objectification of women in today’s media and how, at the end of the day, we really don’t give a damn about the serious stuff.
Ghose articulates his point of view in an understated manner. He recalls being brought up in a household where his father told him that he could take whatever that Ghose did but he was to ensure that his mother did not shed a tear on account of him or his actions. “We were raised in the belief that the mother was the most important person in the household and that all women should be treated respectfully. It was a shock when I moved out of Calcutta and saw lewd words being used for girls and girl friends.”
Chaarpaai came out of the angst he felt with regard to assault on women – physical, verbal and mental. “I have wanted to do Chaarpaai for a long time but I wasn’t sure when the audience would be ready for it.” He terms the play irreverent and obnoxious and that it would shock the audience. “One thing is for sure. No one will watch Chaarpaai and go for a dinner or a party after that,” he says, confident about his latest production.
“The primary focus is to encourage conversation about these issues and make men in particular more sensitive towards this subject. We also plan to produce the four Chaarpaai plays as independent short films too further reach and audience. Art heals. But art can agitate too. Art can shake things up and stir conversation. Art can change minds,” says Ghose. Hopefully.
Chaarpaai will have three shows at 6 pm on 26 and 27 February, and on 4 March at Sathaye auditorium, Vile Parle, Mumbai.
Watch two episodes of Ball Talks below: