Vagina Monologues — these two words have always created ripples in the theatre world. The title of the Eve Ensler’s play has evoked curiosity, even raised eyebrows at times, and the play itself has never ceased to be in the news.
This time, Vagina Monologues faced a ban in Lucknow. The closing show of Theatrefest - Repertwahr III, Vagina Monologues was supposed to be staged at the Sangeet Natak Academy in Lucknow yesterday. But the authorities withdrew permission for the play to be staged at the venue at the last minute.
The play’s director Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, who has offered financial support to several victims of abuse through this play, is as surprised as the organisers of the festival are. “I was told that the cultural secretary of the state refused permission for our play to be staged, tagging it ‘adult’.
There may be two reasons — either there are no cases of rape and violence in Lucknow, so the play doesn’t have any relevance. Or, maybe there are rampant problems prevalent there, so they think we were coming down to start a revolution. It is the action of really insecure people,” says Mody-Kotwal.
The play is a set of monologues recited by women, which underlines the vagina as a tool of female empowerment and an epithet of individuality. When contacted, the organiser Bhupesh Rai says he is clueless about the cancellation of the play.
“It’s not like we haven’t done adult productions earlier. We had brought popular plays like S*x M*rality and Cens*rship earlier,” says Rai, who started Theatrefest a year ago. Through this festival Rai brings popular, contemporary plays from the metros to Lucknow in a bid to enrich its theatre culture.
He insists that he had submitted all the forms and documents before registering for the venue: “First, the cultural secretary put a ban on the play, terming it an ‘adult’ production. Then when we booked another venue, the district magistrate turned us down. I’d even written a letter confirming that there is no vulgarity in the play and the authorities could stop it midway if they found any.” Rai rues that nobody took interest in reading up about the play, the tickets of which were already sold out.
What Mody-Kotwal fails to understand is why ‘vagina’ is considered a taboo word. “In our country, politicians, bureaucrats and policemen looting, raping, or stealing public money is not considered immoral, but a play against women’s abuse is. If ‘vagina’ is regarded as a dirty word, it means a total collapse of our education system. People don’t even know that vagina is the biological name of a part of the body,” she adds sarcastically.
The organisers felt moving court would be the ideal decision. “The tickets for the show were sold out, so the audience is eager. The moment I get a go ahead from the court, I’ll fly the actors down to Lucknow,” Rai says.