Rise like a phoenix!

The Theatrewalas present stories of valour, of grit, of spirits undaunted and ubroken…
Poster of 478402 — Rising from the Embers
Poster of 478402 — Rising from the Embers

“I am a daughter of those parents who walked from Lahore to Amritsar, or somewhere close by, after the Partition. They were refugees in a camp and when they reached Delhi, they were allotted ‘houses’. My parents were given a small motor garage as a house, and in this garage, I was born in Independent India,” begins Sushmaa Roshan Ahuja, writer and director of the dramatic play 478402 — Rising from the Embers.

Just as we have celebrated the 77th Independence Day, this play by the Theatrewalas brings back memories of the Partition and the price women had to pay. Yes, the play focuses on the plight of the women. And we ask Sushmaa why. “I have seen my mother work so hard because the Partition had taken everything away. I have heard stories from her about how daughters in her extended family were raped and brutally killed. Many women, who had come from Pakistan to India, had so many stories to tell. After I got married, I learnt more from my mother-in-law. She has told me about the huge haveli they had in Rawalpindi, and what had happened to all their gold and silver and the clothes… they had to just leave everything and run to Delhi with the children.”

478402 — Rising from the Embers is about a woman who is not accepting defeat as an option. She wants to keep walking, holding her children’s hands, giving shelter to family and others. She wants to keep moving on with her head held high. “And that’s what our mothers have done,” says Sushmaa, adding, “This play is a tribute to all those mothers, including mine and my husband’s, and the women before them.”

The cast during rehearsals
The cast during rehearsals

The one-and-a-half hour play has a 15 member cast, with some enacting and the others reading on stage. Prasanna Rajaram, who is acting in the play, explains, “We are staging it as a reading theatre. So, there is a sutradhar who makes an introduction, then the main characters come in for their monologues; and there are others who act. So, it’s a mix of reading and acting.”

As we listen in, we ask Sushmaa what ‘478402’ signifies, and she tells us, “In the play, I have included experiences of real  people who suffered during 1947, the 1984 riots, and the 2002 Godhra riots. I have had personal interactions with them, which has helped shaped my script. There is nothing in the script that is imagined. I have only given the story a flow because it’s for the stage. People have to know what happened. We have grown up watching so many Hollywood films on Nazis and other revolutions, and the kind of barbaric things that have happened, but we don’t know much about our own history and what our parents or grandparents have gone through. I thought it’s time to tell their story. It’s time for children today in India to know where they are coming from.”

Talking about what they want to achieve through this play, Prasanna says, “We want to show how these riots are primarily similar to each other and question who the real victims are. We present the voices of women who have been killed in the name of honour.” 

Tickets at Rs 200. 
August 19 & 20, 4 pm & 6.30 pm.
At Levites Hall, Egattur, OMR.

Twitter: @rupsjain

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