On Monday, Hindustan Times reported that the theatre society of Kamla Nehru College (KNC), Lakshya, was put on a disadvantage by the judges at a theatre competition for using words such as ‘bra’ and ‘panty’ in their play, Shahira ke Naam. At the theatre fest Mahavidyalay Natya Utsav, organised by the Sahitya Kala Parishad, the team was allegedly first told that they were disqualified and later told that they will only lose marks for it.
Teacher-convener Monami Basu had condemned the move in her Facebook post that went viral, garnering support from various sections, including Kapil Mishra, the Minister of Water, Tourism, Art, Culture and Gurudwara Election. Now, the disqualification has been rolled back.
“I got a call from Kapil Mishra. He told me that he will get in touch with the Sahitya Kala Parishad authorities and ask them to not disqualify or deduct marks over language,” says Basu.
On Tuesday, protesting against the disqualification, student members of Pinjra Tod, a women collective body that raises voice against gender-based discrimination, gathered inside the Shri Ram Centre for what they called ‘An Ode to Bra, Panty and the Sahitya Kala Academy’. As a symbolic gesture they hung bras on the boundary wall of the centre.
“We left bras hanging on the wall to protest against the unnecessary embarrassment attached to women’s undergarments. This isn’t just about the disqualification, but about prohibiting conversation even in a cultural space,” says Somaya Gupta, a member of Pinjra Tod, adding “All of us got together to discuss our experiences of violation of freedom of speech. We even engaged over what is vulgarity and what is healthy. It’s high time that people start normalising things such as women’s undergarments.”
In her Facebook post earlier, Basu had written, “We reject this kind of perversion which prevents youth from healthy discussions on sex, desire and yes even bra panty, which are pieces of clothing, if it titillates you, it is your problem. We reject your pretentious hypocritical propriety; we reject your taboo-ization of the most normal day to day things like periods, sexual desire, consensual sex and bra panty.”
Read her full post here:
“When there are so many atrocities against women, this is the time to come out and talk about things in a healthy manner. We need to talk about things in a clinical way and spell out words like breast, vagina, penis, panty. They’re just words like any others. It’s sad that judges were okay with words such as cham**r and r**di that dehumanise one on caste or profession, but had issues with bra and panty,” added Basu.
The sentiment is echoed by members of theatre societies from other colleges. “We don’t even audition for Sahitya Kala Parishad as their rules are very absurd. And we have many words like ‘bra’ and ‘panty’ in our productions, so we know that they will disqualify us right away,” says Shubham Vaish, president of Shunya, Ramjas College’s theatre society. “It is ridiculous to limit any art form. When it comes to art, you have to let people be vocal about their opinions, irrespective of what they are,” says Vaish.
“What happened with the members of Lakshya is really unfair. Organisers need to understand that if a play has cuss words, it is because the script demands it, not because we want to have fun with it,” says Afreen Sen, president of Players, theatre society of Kirori Mal College.