Monday, 1 October 2007

30 Days in September: A play about love and betrayal

Luit Neil Don
28 September 2007, Friday

Mahesh Dattani's play, about love and betrayal, directed by the gutsy and dynamic Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, endeavours to lift the veil of silence, which surrounds child sexual abuse and addresses the issue unflinchingly.

Here are a few excerpts from the article:

D’RAMA THE PASSION Players and Surjya, presented Mahesh Dattani’s “30 Days in September,” a play in three acts, at Rabindra Bhavan in Guwahati, Assam, from September 21. It was performed for three nights. It treats the sensitive, and generally taboo issue of child sexual abuse, and most importantly, the wrapped up subject of Incest. The play about love and betrayal, directed by the gutsy and dynamic Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, endeavours to lift the veil of silence, which surrounds child sexual abuse and addresses the issue unflinchingly. It builds on the trauma of Mala Khound, who lives with the haunting memories of her abused past. Her abuser - her uncle - subconsciously lives with her all the time, as a part of her dirty reflections. He damages her natural growth, deters her from pursuing her love interests beyond the ominous 30-day period, scars her soul, which finally transformed her into a woman who enjoys being taken advantage of. By marking a daring departure from the norm, the play ensures that we, as a society, no longer take comfort in the routine of uttering the word ‘incest’ in gutless undertones. The play also brings us closer to the reality of abused children - pleasure does form a part of their pain. The consequence of dangerous games can only be dangerous.

As the play progresses, Mala withers under the psychological pressure extorted on her by the abuser. Her mother watches silently, living her own pain and suffering mutely. Exploring the painful problem, Dattani raises valid concerns, and structures a world of optimism, where the wrongs can stand corrected and resurrection of a brutalised faith is possible. But none of this happens without another man’s willingness to help the two women, bury their traumatic past, and find ways of rejuvenating their present. Vikram, Mala’s boyfriend, becomes the agent of change here. He dares to unmask the evil, even at the cost of his love.

He hits the women hard, until they hit rock bottom. Finally, there is no way out but to come up, face the wrongs and dare to correct them, notwithstanding the challenges the process of correction entails. Both Mala and her mother cut his questions short at first, but finally he succeeds in urging Mala to openly accuse her uncle. This leads to Manu’s horrifying revelation of the reason for her silence, and for her taking refuge behind her prayers - the violation of her body as a child by her own brother. Mala now begins to comprehend the true nature of her mother’s agony and suffering.

To say that “30 Days In September” is a very powerful play, and that it derives most of its power from the written word, would not do justice to director Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, who gave a sensitive, strong voice to Dattani’s words. He shaped some exceedingly charged and some very heartrending moments on stage. The most enduring image of course, is the last scene, when Mala is seen on the ramp upfront and the Uncle on the empty frame, taking away with it the last barrier that stood between the mother and daughter, followed by the mother-daughter union in the living room.

Another powerful scene is when Mala is relating her story of abuse to Deepak. This scene is juxtaposed with her uncle behind the frame, enacting the horrific episode. This juxtaposition of the past with the present makes this a highly charged scene.

His use of space has always been on an offbeat design. For director Sattyakee D’com Bhuyan, this production marks another milestone in almost a decade of promoting English theatre in the region. His amateur backyard theatre group, D’RAMA the Passion Players, is a pioneer in popularising English language plays in the Northeast region, and has been instrumental in their gaining the acceptance of theatre lovers. This genre of blending Assamese with English was yet another huge success.

For the full article, click here .
(Thanks to Askios for the link to the article)

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