The Suzette Jordan Story paints the horror of rape as is — stark | sex and relationships | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Feb 23, 2017-Thursday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

The Suzette Jordan Story paints the horror of rape as is — stark

The horror of rape is best painted stark, and the Suzette Jordan Story goes to show just that.

sex and relationships Updated: Jul 12, 2016 12:25 IST
Supriya Sharma
Supriya Sharma
Hindustan Times
Rape

The Suzette Jordan Story is the first play in a series – titled Manohar Kahaniya – on the lives of women survivors of gender violence.(Shutterstock)

The horror of rape is best painted stark, and the Suzette Jordan Story goes to show just that.

The first thing you notice on the stage is a chair. Then you see a bunch of women sleepwalking around the piece of furniture until a buzzer rings at random – forcing whoever is in front of it to sit. There is a collective gasp of horror. No matter. The woman gets up and they all resume stumbling around… until the buzzer goes off again. Repeat.

Read: Exclusive: In Delhi, a rape accused has 83% chance of acquittal

The metaphor is clear, and so is the message. “There is a rape happening in India every 15 minutes,” says the sutradhaar. “What are we doing to stop this?”

Like thousands of Indians who took to the streets to protest after the Nirbhaya gang rape in December 2012, the members of Delhi-based theatre group Shapno Ekhon decided to do a little more than just remain passive observers to a social evil that preys on Indian women day after day. The group’s efforts found fruition with their latest production, The Suzette Jordan Story, which was performed at the Safdar Studio in the Capital last weekend.

The Suzette Jordan Story was performed at the Safdar Studio in New Delhi last weekend.

The play presents the ordeal Jordan went through after she was gang-raped by five people in February 2012, and the courage she displayed in revealing her identity to the public. It is the first in a series – titled Manohar Kahaniya – on the lives of women survivors of gender violence.

In the Suzette Jordan Story, the Kolkata-based women rights’ activist is played by three actors dressed in different attires – a short dress, a salwar kameez and a tee-shirt with harem pants. Her clothes change, as does her face, but the story remains the same.

Read: Family, police pressure: Why most rape victims turn hostile during trial

“Rape is not about what the woman is wearing or which nightclub she visits. It is violence. And gender violence is about asserting power,” says Shomik Ray, one of the group’s founders and the writer-director of The Suzette Jordan Story.

According to him, the idea is to reclaim gender space through real-life stories of resilience. “When you say gender equity, who defines it? Again, it is men,” says Ray. “We decided to reclaim gender space from such patronisation through stories of women who have stood up for themselves without the help of men.”

The clothes change, so do faces, but the story remains the same.

The next in line is a play on Pakistani woman Mukhtar Mai, who was gang-raped in 2002 on the orders of a tribal council. Going against custom that expected Mai to kill herself, she went to court. The third play in the series will be on Sushmita Banerjee, who wrote a memoir about her escape from Taliban and was shot dead when she returned to Afghanistan in 2013.

“We intend to explore other aspects of gender violence too, such as those related to caste and relationships,” says Ray, who also teaches at the Indian Institute of Public Health.

Read: Only 12% of those charged with raping children convicted in Delhi

This was the 10th performance of The Suzette Jordan Story, which debuted in 2015. The audience’s response, according to Ray, has been heartening. “When it was performed at the One Billion Rising event in Delhi, we had people coming in and hugging the three Suzettes,” he says. “Whatever we’ve said in the play is available in the public domain – either through essays written by Jordan’s daughter, her father or some wonderful articles by journalists.”

Shapno Ekhon performs the play in three formats — a mono-act, a full-stage version and street-play. “We want to do theatre for social change. That has been our main motivation while selecting plays and venues,” says Ray.

Follow @htlifeandstyle for more.