Theatre has always been a male-dominated affair in Madhya Pradesh, but three women have created a history of sort by launching the state’s first women’s theatre club.
The women who came up with the idea are theatre actors Lata Sangade (Bhopal), Geetanjali Girwar (Gwalior) and Aarati Tiwari (Pune).
“The club will work in Bhopal, Gwalior and Pune. In Bhopal, we will try to introduce rural women to theatre. We’ve found that women in small towns and villages are engaged in household work only, and rarely do something for entertainment,” says Lata who will lead the group in Bhopal.
She says, “We saw many women doing keertans (singing prayers) in the evening in villages. So, we will try to attract them to something they may be interested in.”
Lata, who has been associated with theatre since 2004, says, “I became a professional theatre artiste since 2006. After joining Alakhnandan’s Nat Bundele Theatre Group, I worked under KN Panicker for six months and went to Sri Ram Centre repertory in Delhi as a full-time theatre actor, and worked there for four years. Back to Bhopal, I decided to do something for the city’s theatre-loving women.”
Regarding objection from the families of women in rural areas to their joining theatre, she says, “I know there will be resistance. We will talk to them about their area of interests and then introduce them to theatre. They might have watched theatres, but participating in it is different.”
Initially, the club will organise workshops for women and girls and stage short plays in which they will participate, she says. “They will be taught the basics of music, dance, set designing, costumes and make-up at the workshops where theatre and television actors will deliver lectures,” says Lata.
Geetanjali who will lead the women’s theatre club in Gwalior says, “Theatre has so far been a men’s world. The idea of launching a women’s theatre club came to me at a workshop of Sangeet Natya Academy in Delhi. I wanted a platform where women and girls can work without hesitation.”
“Also, the family members prevent women and girls from joining theatre. So, I will encourage them. The purpose of the club will be to make them realise that they are not meant for household chores only,” says Geetanjali.
A theatre artiste from Bhopal Archana Kumar says, “This is an excellent step towards making rural women brave, and create an opportunity for them. I’m sure the club will bring out some real folk and tribal artistes from MP.”