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Breaking stereotypes, now in Marathi

The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s bible for a new generation of women, has been translated in 45 languages, the website boasts.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2009 02:23 IST
Purva Mehra

The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler’s bible for a new generation of women, has been translated in 45 languages, the website boasts.

Make that 46. On April 4, Vandana Khare’s impassioned Marathi translation will secure a spot in that extended list.

Impelled by the boldness and relevance of the book that celebrates female sexuality, Khare, director of the youth fellowship programme at Pukar, an organisation aimed at generating global debate about urbanisation and globalisation, took on scripting a theatrical adaptation in Marathi.

“Translation was easy, but a cultural adaptation was the tricky part. I had to maintain the boldness but restrain it from bordering on vulgarity, given the constraints of Marathi culture,” said Khare.

The feminist author is anxious about the response her adaptation will elicit. A prior reading for a select group of literary and theatre folk earned her praise and encouragement to stage her version.

“It’s a bold move on Khare’s part. The language is most likely to elicit reactions. Literature of protest in Marathi isn’t a novel concept but women speaking that language is new,” said Chaya Datta, professor of women’s studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Abundant references to the vagina, sex, love, masturbation and orgasms required Khare to expand her research to different parts of Maharashtra, such as Vidarbha and Pune. “I had a vague idea of the equivalent for vagina from graffiti in local trains. My research threw up words like yoni, fundi and bhundi, as synonyms. Sheeshtikka is the term for clitoris, but no one uses that so I've referred to it as sukhacha (pleasure) button. The book was intended to demystify and reclaim the word c**t,” said the 45-year-old.

Rehearsals for Yoneechya Maneechya Gujgoshtee (sweet secrets of the mind of the vagina) have been stalled because of the
reluctant cast.

“The play is simultaneously personal, universal and unique. It's a part of my personhood, but a lot of actresses have refused to act in the play. The current cast members are hesitant about the content and aesthetics. But it’s an important piece and merits a wide audience, especially the middle classes,” said Khare who is in talks with the BMC to host the performance for various communities in slums.

“With the elections round the bend, I am both curious and afraid of the reactions. I have known Maharashtrians to be progressive as far as theatre is concerned, but let’s see,” Khare said.

(For tickets, contact Vandana Khare on 9821520724. The play will be staged at the PL Deshpande Academy, Prabhadevi, on April 4)