I will go to the mountains to hunt a deer/ Where is my gun, my darling?/ You’ve written a love letter/ With the blood of your lover.” A haunting Persian folk song plays in the background as the curtain rises. The spotlight settles on a woman who is standing at the gallows. Her crime: She had stabbed to death a man who had tried to sexually abuse her.
Faezeh Jalali’s play, 07/07/07, is based on the life of Reyhaneh Jabbari. After seven years in a Tehran prison, the Iranian woman was hanged on 25 October 2014 at the age of 26, despite an international campaign calling for a reprieve. “07/07/07 is a true account of those seven years of her life in prison. The title denotes the date she was abused, a number many consider lucky,” says Mumbai-based Jalali, who has family in Iran. The production first premiered at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai on 2 December.
07/07/07 is among the 10 productions from across the country vying for top honours at the 11th Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) programme that will be held in the Capital from 5-10 March. The awards will be announced on 11 March.
Selected from over 300 entries, the plays in the META shortlist showcase diverse strands of emotion and reflect the many forms of conflict.
A Friend’s Story, for instance, focuses on the issue of homosexuality; Mein Huun Yusuf Aur Ye Hai Mera Bhai, set during the 1948 Palestine war, tells the heart-breaking story of two lovers, Ali and Nada; and The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari is a psychological drama that unfolds in a warehouse. A Kannada play, Akshayambara, raises questions of female representation and male ownership in society.
The Tamil play Kuhaimaravasigal (Cave Tree Dwellers) is about the struggle of people displaced from their land. It opens up a new kind of politics, says director S. Murugaboopathy.
Exposing the absurdity of living in a world without dreams and desires, the Bengali play Haoai (The Eleventh Planet) follows three vagrants on their mission to invent an 11th planet to live the ideal life.
The Balcony opens its doors to reality as well as illusion. Set in a luxury brothel, where people dress in fantasy costumes—a rebel leader donning a police officer’s uniform—the Malayalam play exposes double standards.
“In today’s time, theatricality has somewhere lost its protagonist role to gimmicks on the stage. Luckily, all the shortlisted plays, especially Kuhaimaravasigal and Agnes Of God, have not indulged in such antics and have presented their ideas aesthetically,” says Baharul Islam, a noted Assamese director-actor who was one of the members of the selection committee for META 2016.
“There was no criterion as such for deciding the nominations besides, of course, good work,” says Islam. “The plays explore a wide spectrum of subjects and themes. But there is a common thread between them: They are a reflection of the present times.”
The plays nominated for the META awards will be staged from 5-10 March. Timings and venues vary. Tickets, Rs.100 and Rs.200, available on in.bookmyshow.com. For details, visit www.metawards.com