Leela, the first South Asian Women’s Theatre Festival that began in the Capital on Monday, is an attempt to engage in dialogue through theatre with Saarc countries.
The festival features 14 plays from nine countries: six by India and the remaining from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mynamar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The festival is in collaboration with the National School of Drama (NSD), Jamia Millia Islamia university and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). This follows the East and Southeast Asian women’s theatre festival in Purva, in 2003 by NSD.
The opening play, Nati Binodini (Hindi), is based on the autobiography of actor Binodini Dasi. It describes her entry into public life, and her courage in asserting her independence and identity. The director of the play is Amal Allana, NSD chairperson.
Says Anuradha Kapur, professor of acting and direction at the NSD: “A few of the plays look at mythology and they are absolutely contemporary adaptations of classical text, street performances. There’s also a whole range of works from written texts to devised text to new plays.” The festival, Kapur maintains, isn’t just directed and performed by women—it also aims at generating a dialogue between
South Asian women on the basis of common experiences.
One of the plays being staged is Sadakainaya Jataka, from Mynamar, in which Buddha is depicted as a mythical bird, Kainaya, in the Himalayan forests. The play will be performed by the Shwe Myanmar Theatre Group.
Another highlight is Colombo Colombo: the story of your coffin being performed in Sinhala and English. The tragicomic musical is an experimental piece based in Colombo, consists of four independent episodes linked together through appearances of several characters and conditions. Its director Indika Ferdinando says, it is an attempt to explore her constant search for the magic in theatre and her identity within theatre practice.
Salsal and Shahmama, a play from Herat, Afghanistan, is yet another production to look out for. Performed in Dari, the play is based on the story of two sisters living near a Buddha statue of Bamyan. Through the course of the play the sisters find themselves witnessing the explosion and destruction of Buddha statues.
Prof. Veena Sikri of Jamia Millia Islamia, says the genesis of the festival lies in a debate held at the university in 2009, where seven connectors, or networks, between women across South Asia were identified, one of which was theatre. Through these networks women are able to share experiences, learn from each other, identify best practices, and work towards issue-based collaboration across South Asia based on agreed plans of action.
Sakubai (Hindi), 9 March, 6.30pm
Putaliko Ghar (Nepali), 9 March, 8.30pm
Dhonhiyala Alifulhu: A Love Story (English), 10 March, 6.30pm
Nagamandala (Punjabi), 10 March, 8.30pm
Jang Ab Nahin Hogi (Urdu), 11 March, 6.30pm
Sadakaiaya Jataka (Myanma Bhasa/Burmese), 11 March, 8.30pm
Draupadi (Manipuri), 12 March, 6.30pm
Thus Spake Shoorpanakha So Said Shakuni (English), 13 March, 6.30pm
Salsal and Shahmaama (Dari), 13 March, 8.30pm
Behular Bhasan (Bengali), 14 March, 6.30pm
Sonata (Indian English), 15 March, 6.30pm
Galem gi Lu—Galem’s Song (Dzongkha), 15 March, 8.30pm
Leela, South Asian Women’s Theatre Festival, will run till 15 March. The venues are Kamani Auditorium, Shri Ram Centre and Meghdoot open-air theatre. Free passes can be collected from the ICCR office and at the National School of Drama.