On Wednesday afternoon, shoppers at High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel stopped in their tracks as a street play began with the pounding of drums in the main courtyard.
Actors from the Kreating Charakters acting academy stood in a circle to mark out a space where they performed the play, Mohe Bitiyaa Na Deejo. The play, organised by NGO Akshara, dealt with violence and prejudice faced by women.
“There’s a misconception that violence against women happens only in the lower classes, but actually it’s just better hidden in the upper classes because of social support,” said Anisha Padhee, programme officer at Akshara. “We had performed this play to a different audience at Jogeshwari, but it’s just as important that mall-goers also see it.”
The play was structured as a series of scenes from a woman’s life from birth to adulthood. Two or three actors stepped into the circle at a time to perform. In one scene, they cradled an imaginary baby and consoled the father for having had a daughter, saying: “Goddess Lakshmi has come to your house. Besides, the next child will definitely be a boy.”
They enacted scenes of wife-beating, sexually aggressive ragging in colleges, and harassment by doctors during medical check-ups.
Each scene ended with the actors from the ring angrily criticising the woman in the centre. “Don’t argue with your husband.
You don’t need to have an opinion,” they shouted at the end of one scene.
“Stop spending time with boys. You’re almost old enough to be a mother,” they said after another. The audience, predominantly male, nodded in recognition of many of the sentiments the play highlighted.