Women At War is a play with a fresh look on Indian women freedom fighters
Women heroes have always fallen prey to history's biases owing to which their representation has been skewed. They have either been eulogised or demonised, but never spoken about for what they truly were — according to City-based theatre group Crea-Shakhti. They are seeking to address this distortion in their upcoming play Women at War by bringing to life three women from the freedom struggle (Rani Lakshmi Bai, Hazrat Mahal, and Rani Chennemma) to present their humane side and juxtapose them with contemporary women, and the issues they face. “We have a tendency to romanticise heroes. Isn’t it reason enough that she was a warrior or a politician. Why does she have to be portrayed as somebody’s mother or a wife?” says Dushyanth Gunashekar, founder at Crea-Shakthi, who will be directing the segment on Rani Lakshmi Bai. “She never took her son to battle, contrary to what is portrayed in our history textbooks,” rues Dushyanth.
Rani Chennamma and Hazrat Mahal also get a different treatment here as opposed to popular legends. “We have portrayed Hazrat Mahal living her last years in Nepal in a subdued manner while reflecting on her earlier years of dissent against the British,” says Aadithya Rajan, creative head at Crea-Shakthi, who has directed the Hazrat Mahal segment. Yugesh RV, who has focused on Rani Chennamma, throws light on her contribution to the struggle. “She was the first woman freedom fighter from India. But, history never gave her due,” he says.
With a cast of 30, all fresh off their Spotlight Initiative workshop (45-day programme), the play was conceptualised over a series of brainstorming sessions involving the actors and directors. They will be using three languages and have roped in two music directors. When asked about the need to weave in the parallel narrative of the treatment of women in contemporary times (being directed by Siddhartha), Dushyanth replies, “We wanted to take a dig at the prevailing times. On the one hand, we praise these women heroes to the sky and beyond, but it’s in stark contrast to the state of things now.” The director is working on his next project, a Tamil rock musical titled Baemaani, which will be staged in August.
Tickets at Rs 200
On July 1, 4 pm & 7 pm
At Harishree Vidyalayam, Raja Annamalai Puram