Sreevathson V’s play ‘Title’ highlights the murkiness in ancestral property law and reliance on Manusmriti in this era
Oho Productions’ latest work Title, written and directed by Sreevathson V, is about one such battle women wage against patriarchy
It’s no news that women are often the unwitting recipients of patriarchy’s perils. Where multiple waves of feminism are fighting it out with the big picture, there are countless women waging their battles in everyday life — against the family, far-flung relatives, adversarial workplaces, unsafe public spaces and more. Oho Productions’ latest work Title, written and directed by Sreevathson V, is about one such battle.
Brahada and her mother-in-law, Gowri, two women rendered ‘single’ after their husbands are presumed dead after a religious procession turned chaotic, are left to defend their home — ancestral property — from a long lost relative claiming property rights. It’s no surprise that this particular relative is a very entitled man, who married into a distant wing of the family and believes he has as much or more right to the property as the two women who came to it through their husbands. The lack of a proper title deed or will only seem to tip the scale in his favour. But, undeterred, the women argue their case in a makeshift courtroom right there in their living room.
And it is such a plight that Sreevathson wanted to highlight through his play. “Self-acquired property law is categorically clear now, after the judgment of the Supreme Court in 2020. But still, there is an ancestral property law that needs some more clarity. Also, the amount of importance we give to the rule that daughters should have an equal share, I believe it is not the same with daughters-in-law. Obviously, the daughter-in-law gets the spouse’s share but what if the spouse is missing or dead and there is doubt?” he reasons.
In the case of Brahada and Gowri, there’s a just retired judge who weighs in fairly on the case, a loyal ‘rowdy’ who stands by them, and a select set of circumstances that aid them through the process. But it is not without strife and struggle. Be it the smart-mouthed lawyer who deems it fit to rely on the Manusmriti to settle the property dispute or a politician who has his own agenda.
But Sreevathson uses these plot points to make a case. Brahada stands up for contemporary logic when she argues that ancient texts and codes should merely serve as reference and precedence. “We can refer to how the kings waged war in the Mahabharata but can we expect the Indian Army to use the same practices now?” she hits back. “In our present context, everyone says ‘that smriti says this’; especially in the context of women. There are a lot of smritis that were written according to that particular time. I’m not questioning them. But what are the present (way of) living and present standards? The Hindu Succession Law has said it is the only law that will prevail. But still our courts go for Manusmriti. What should be used as a reference shouldn’t be used as precedence. I wanted to nail it not on this issue but so many others where this happens,” he elaborates.
While making these big points, the play also managed to subtly make yet another refreshing one about the relationship between the two women. Brahada casually calls her mother-in-law by name, they easily alternate between pulling each other’s leg and protecting each other’s space. Without being loud about it, there is an easy intimacy established between them, who have become more friends than anything else. That was to contradict the still raging stereotype that pits the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, says Sreevathson. And isn’t that something?
‘Title’ will be staged at the Krishna Gana Sabha on May 18. For more details, visit Instagram: vathson_v