'Binnu' by Theatre Nisha presents seven stories of seven real women who fought patriarchy

These are stories from the pages of Part 2 of Apradhini: Women Without Men, by Padma Shri Shivani Gaura Pant

author_img Rupam Jain Published :  28th April 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  28th April 2023 12:00 AM
A scene from the story of Lalita

A scene from the story of Lalita

Binnu, a girl who makes her own rules, and devours men because she hates them all; Naseem, a courtesan whose dreams are coloured by her lover, but succumbs to the realities of life; Mrs Ghose, a clever trickster whose innocent face scams people of their savings; Lalitha, a girl whose life and death is decided by her husband; Pagaliya, an eccentric woman who knows what men want; Madhu Ben, story of a woman who seeks redemption from her reincarnated husband; and A Mother’s Prayer, a story about a mother who seeks her son-in-law’s death from the gods. Seven strong stories from seven different women from the pages of Part 2 of Apradhini: Women Without Men, by Gaura Pant, are all set to be staged by Theatre Nisha.

This is the 100th year birth anniversary of the writer Gaura Pant, better known as Shivani. Padma Shri Shivani was a Hindi writer of the 20th century, who majorly wrote women-centric fiction. Celebrating the occasion, Theatre Nisha is staging Binnu, that includes the above mentioned stories. We ask director of the play V Balakrishnan why it is titled Binnu when it is about seven different characters, and he tells us, “These are stories of women whom the author Shivani Gaura Pant met in her life,  and each one is amazingly full of life and verve. They are real stories of real people. Binnu is my favourite character, a woman who chose to live by her own rules, challenging men who try to decide her fate. That’s the only reason I have called this play Binnu,” he says, adding, “Binnu’s verve, her ferocity with which she meets life headfirst, wherein she gets what she wants; her strength and belief in her own self is what is most endearing.”

A scene from the story of Naseem

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Though they are separate stories, but they have a thematic and contextual connection. The context in all these stories is women who are either being made to live by men’s rules or being led to death by men. Their life and death are ruled so much by men that they choose to leave the men and go against the toxic patriarchal society. All these stories draw inspiration from women fighting to live life on their own terms. “All seven women stand out as very powerful feminist voices of that era, though some of them meet a sad end. For example, Lalitha, who dies giving birth to her third child, when she was only 15 years old. Lalitha was married at 12, and all her children were stillborn because she was not old enough to bear a child. But the husband was never punished for this,” says Balakrishnan.

A scene from the story of Madhu Ben

The director also informs that he has made no change whatsoever to Shivani’s stories.  “I have not even changed the text! We are presenting Binnu as it has been written by Shivani. Even the names of the characters are the same as in her book. This play is part of Theatre of Stories, called Kahaniyon ka Rangmanch in Hindi, which was made famous by Dr  Devendra Raj Ankur of National School of Drama and being one of his students, I have been working with Kahaniyon ka Rangmanch all my career,” he shares.

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On choosing such stories for the stage, Balakrishnan says, “We always select stories that resonate with our thinking, with the kind of work that we do, stories that reach out to us for their dramatic action and which we believe are important to commune with the society, the kind of tonality we would like to use with society,” which he explains is, “We want them to be in-your-face, something without mincing words, talk harsh truths, where we don’t need to articulate using softer and acceptable words, but the words that speak out the action being committed. Binnu is all of that more.”

The cast includes Shakthi, Aparna Kumar, Shivangi Singh, Preethi Bharadwaj, Neeharika KS, Farha Sultana, Meera Sitaraman, Karthik Gowrisankar and Navaneeth; with live music by Srivaralaxmi ‘Maya’ and Deepak.

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Tickets available online.
April 30. 3 pm & 7 pm.
At Alliance Française of Madras.