Thundering Response to Women of Ramayana, a Theatrical Redemption
A scenario wherein the women from the mythological epic Ramayana could all come together for a conversation- a heart-to-heart dialogue, would that not have changed a lot of stereotypes and beliefs in our society?
Women of Ramayana- A Dialogue, a collaborative effort of Ekk Junoon and Wisdom Curators, was staged before a packed house discerning audience on September 24, 2022, at Excelsior American School. Wisdom Curators, a growing group of profound thinkers and individuals who challenge conventional wisdom, provide a unique forum for discussion on various topics. Through powerful speeches, conversations, contests, and theatre productions, this endeavour cultivates a community of specialists and seekers in the field of knowledge through learning engagement.
A full house
Braving the bad weather and traffic, the enthusiastic audience gathered to watch the play woven around unspoken questions and mind chatter of the characters from Ramayana. Who is to be blamed for sending Shri Ram for 14 years of exile? If Sita had refused to give Agni Pariksha? Who was Sunaina? Was Ravan avenging the insult of his sister Surpanakha?
Notably, the delicate line of conversations that left the audience pondering over many questions and the thought-provoking dialogues was enacted by the amateur actors (read first timers). The star cast and the crew hailed from various backgrounds other than being trained artists. The play had all the apt ingredients to make it a success recipe-the concept and direction by Anamika Gautam, script by Dr Neha Gupta, and costume adornments were done by Neena Mital. The wit, humour and significant supportive role of Neena Wagh, a lyrist, playwright, author and advocate of people with autism, glued blossomed the protagonists in their respective roles.
The play used a fictional interaction between some female characters featured in the Ramayana as a tool to question the gender biases prevalent in society which forced the audience to delve deep into their subconscious to find answers to the age-old questions hovering over the generations about the place of women in the community. Neelesh Kulkarni, author, voice-over & theatre artist, Master Coach & entrepreneur, enacted as a Sutradhar of the play. He set the context, rolling the beginning of the performance and the conclusion joining the dots from pages of history to contemporary times.
Presenting an alternate viewpoint about the revered scripture encouraged the spirit of questioning for a deeper understanding of the human condition and sought increased acceptance of contrary views, thereby leading to more harmonious relationships.
“The journey from inception to the production of the play by eleven beautiful and exceptional women has been ‘soulful,” said Pragati Negi, founder of Wisdom Curators & an HR corporate leader who played the role of Surpankha. Manisha, an eminent Astrologer who played the role of Sulochana, said that for her, it was a lifetime experience, and she was delighted to be a part of this crew. Monika, Director at an HR consulting firm, described the experience as phenomenal. She was glad she could overcome her stage fright and speak the dialogues on stage. Graceful, eloquent Sita in the play, aptly depicted by Kavita Gupta, Mrs India Finalist and an IT professional for two decades, said, “what if Sita would have refused to give Agni Pariksha? Many social dynamics would have been different for women today.” Karuna Ahuja, who played the role of Sunaina (the mother of Sita & Urmilla), is a corporate leader in an MNC, made a valid point, “should we not teach our girls to question and discuss what is projected as righteousness or Dharma instead of raising them to follow the patriarchal norms blindly.”
Neelam Mehrotra, a naval wife, teacher and entrepreneur, another strong character from the play, described it as a memorable experience. Nalini Malhotra, a senior IT professional and a globe trotter, feels that the workshop and the play made a real difference to her thought process and personality. Drills on stagecraft, voice modulation, expressions and at the backdrop of it all, the theme of acceptance, allowance and a search within has helped her evolve from a person who has never performed on stage to a Kalakar in the making. The character of Manthara, played by Surabhi Pant Joshi, a senior educationist; Kaikayi, played by Ishita Srivastava, a corporate professional for over 21 years and Surpanakha, enacted by Pragati Negi was highly appreciated by the audience.
The play brought different unheard views of the women we have known for centuries, and we have preconceived notions about each one based on the storytelling we heard or the books we read. “We wanted to display a healthy narrative based on debate and logical arguments of women of Ramayana and relate the situations to the choices that we as individuals have when making decisions,” explained Anamika Gautam.
The strong support of the sponsors pulled the event together, with Suburb as a media partner.
American Excelsior School as venue partner, theatre group Ekk Junoon, the team of Wisdom Curators, DCB Bank, Reet Foundation and Reviewia.