DakshinaChitra’s annual Utsavam all set to host professor A Mangai’s play — Ulluram (Inner Resolve)
With this play, Mangai hopes to open up conversations — without judgement — on the many levels of troubles that we’ve long since normalised
“En udal, enathu urimai,” says the artist on stage, even as she moves her arms and legs in vigorous exercise, as comfortable with her body as she can get in the process. The idea begins there — to use art as a tool to foster acceptance while we dive into the murky depths of the reality around child sexual abuse.
DakshinaChitra’s annual Utsavam is all set to host, among many a carefully curated event, A Mangai’s play — Ulluram (Inner Resolve). One that seeks to break the silence about the subject that is still considered taboo, despite the ever-increasing incidences.
“It’s still a taboo topic. In the light of all the cases that came about in Tamil Nadu — it started in Chennai — the whole issue of child sexual abuse came up front and it really troubled many of us — so many students committing suicide, the way the media was handling it, and all the kind of advisory ponmozhigal given by teachers and others. That was what I think I was reacting to (while creating the play). I had been working on it. And our team — counsellors, teachers, student activists, actors and social workers — came up with this play based on the testimonials given by various students over the whole of last year,” recounts Mangai.
With this play, Mangai hopes to open up conversations — without judgement — on the many levels of troubles that we’ve long since normalised. “It is much more deep-rooted than any of us would acknowledge. After last year’s events, teachers were forced to face this. I’ve been a teacher and I know what happens among teachers. When there is something that comes out about one of the teachers, especially if it’s a senior, it’s co-ed and if it’s a man, then the other teachers don’t know how to deal with it. Also, parents don’t know how to handle it. Or the institution doesn’t respond. Which is why they (abuser) go scot-free. This play is more or less a pretext to that culture. We thought we should catch the vulnerability (on part of the student) and the strength that is needed to survive,” she elaborates.
Beyond the communication of principle and reality, the play also hopes to offer a place for people to speak up and find whatever solace they can among a receptive, non-judgemental audience. Mangai is no stranger to such testimonials. One of the actors, 10 years since her school years and her own experience, is on a mission to make people (students, parents, everyone) come out. Counsellors from the team will be present for anyone who might need their help as well. “I’ve been hesitating to read Eve Ensler’s Apology; I am reading it now. After 35 years of the death of the man (her father) who perpetrated the violence (abuse) on her, she has written this. In one of the meetings, she said: ‘The good thing is that once I wrote it, I liberated him; I had closure.’ I guess that is what we want,” she concludes, offering an invitation to be part of the play and the experience.
‘Ulluram’ will be performed at 4 pm on Saturday (March 5) at DakshinaChitra Museum.
With this play, Mangai hopes to open up conversations — without judgement — on the many levels of troubles that we’ve long since normalised.