There’s a lot more to know about Kashmir beyond conventional politics and turmoil that prevails in the state. Not many people know about Lal Ded, a Kashmiri poetess, whose writing had a great impact on the natives of the state. A play created on her life in 2004, will be now staged in the city on March 8.
Conceptualised and enacted by actor Meeta Vasisth, it’s a solo act in English, Hindi and Kashmiri. Through the play, Vasisth will show how Lal’s writing continues to influence Kashmiris and the state’s literature even after 700 years.
“To explore the idea of feminism, I was studying several women writers, including mystic poems by Meera, Akka Mahadevi, Andal and Lal Ded. But I was hooked to Lal’s poetry as it was very stimulating and sensuous,” says Vasisth, adding, “I could relate to her poetry personally and that is when I decided to stage it.” Vasisth will portray nine characters on stage, who will reflect upon the various phases of Lal’s life.
“What’s intriguing about her is the fact that she was beyond fear, attachment, greed and subjectivity. Her poetry is about individualism. Kashmir, for her, is beyond geography and the way we perceive it today. Her saintly voice cuts across religions,” explains the actor. The structure of the play takes inspiration from Noh, a Japanese musical drama form and Koodiyattam, a Sanskrit theatre form from Kerala.
“The language of the act comprises speech, body gestures and facial expressions. For me, theatre is not an audio-visual presentation. It should evoke something deep. So in this act, I had to train myself a lot to do little,” she says, adding that her hand gesture at the beginning of the play is inspired from Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna. “I’ll start the play with my body upside down, taking inspiration from the way Sufi mystics meditate,” she adds.
About Lal Ded
She belonged to the Kashimiri Saivite sect, gave up on worldly desires and undertook mysticism after she was married off at the age of 12. Abused by her family, she was one of the first writers in the Kashmiri language. Her poetry, known as Lal Vakhs, is an important part of the state’s literature even today.
Lal Ded will be performed on March 8, at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA, from 7 pm onwards. Tickets are priced at R350 and R450.