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Woman on top

Through her array of women characters, theatre director Amal Allana has constantly tried to find herself.

art and culture Updated: Oct 08, 2010 21:18 IST
Paramita Ghosh

In 1993, director Amal Allana told Manohar Singh, the veteran actor and her close collaborator, that she had a role for him in an adaptation of a Bertolt Brecht play. Singh asked whether he had to play the cook. "I told him he had to play Himmat Mai or Mother Courage, a woman. I also made him play a man who wants to be a women in Begum Barwe… Androgyny became part of my entire vocabulary for expressing these multiple identities," says Allana a few days before Erendira, another of her well-loved 'women characters' goes up on stage.

The qualification is important. Allana's Noti Binodini, Erendira, Hadda, Rukaya, Noora (the last three are from her play Metropolis) are important as women. And as ideas. Through them, Allana has introduced a style of theatre that makes it all right for a woman to tell the story from the woman's point of view. "It took me a while," says Allana, "to realise that as a director, my interventions were coming from my own experience as a woman. So my sutradhar (narrator), as in Binodini, could not be a man. I make Binodini speak. It is she who puts her benefactor Girish Ghosh under scrutiny. In Erendira and her Heartless Grandmother and Noti Binodini, instead of one leading lady I have five…" A woman's life is made up of many tracts so her most truthful representation could only be in fragments.

The text of magic realist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose short story is the source for Allana's Erendira, was no problem. Says Allana, "Marquez works at simultaneous levels of consciousness," so it required no counter-culture, no enforcement of the 'female perspective'. "Marquez allows the drifts so, in that sense, he's very female but he's ruthless in the portrayal of the grandmother, a woman who is shown to prostitute another woman."

What Allana brings to Marquez is the accommodation of his Latin American culture in a Rajastha-ni/Indian setting. "I did not want to replace or push away the original story," says Allana. "My play is of both worlds. The idiom and style of performance is contemporary but its spine is still traditional — gaa key batao, sing and tell."

A Woman's world Catch Erendira on 9-10 October, 7 pm, at LTG Auditorium, Copernicus Marg or call: 23389713