Understanding Women’s Voices in Indian Theatre in the 1980s through Magazines and Newspaper articles
‘Towards Equality’ (1974), a document introduced by the Committee on the Status of Women, the first systematically represented report highlighting socio-political and economic conditions of women in India, became the founding stone of women’s movements and feminist politics in the country. As an inherently socially engaged medium, one may ask if theatre has used its potential to build and expand on the critical turn in representations of gender, legislation and the questions of violence?
In ‘Women in Indian Drama’ (1982) author Kumud Mehta states that “But we have no plays about how these figures relate to their family, to their mothers, their children. We do not really know how the dispossessed appear to those who are closest to them. Till now we have chosen to interpret their silent suffering as eloquent in itself. But I am still waiting to hear the voice of their silence in our plays”.
A short column in Theatre News in September, 1981 reported on the ‘conscious’ voices of women in the country who demanded women-centric plays and narratives. Reflecting on contemporary stage-practices, the author not only focuses on the need for women protagonists, but also for women playwrights whose intervention provides an opportunity for delving into earlier marginalized social issues relating to gender. Tripti Mitra’s article on the state of women in theatre was posthumously translated to Hindi and published in Jansatta on July 2, 1989. Pondering over the future of women in theatre, she writes, “क्या आज भी नाटक के लिए समर्पित स्त्रियां बहुत कुछ गवां करके भी विस्मृति के अंधकार में नहीं ढकेल दी जा रही?… कहना न होना के स्त्रियां के अभिनय कार्य को अब बुरी नजर से देखा नही जाता, बस इतनी ही प्रगति हुई है। समय बीतने के साथ समाज व्यवस्था में परिवर्तन होते रहने से शायद एक दिन ये सब बाधाएं भी खत्म हो जाएंगी।”Understanding Women’s Voices in Indian Theatre in the 1980s through Magazines and Newspaper articles
All Courtesy: Anand Gupt Collection/ Alkazi Theatre Archives