(Originally posted in Daijiworld)
Artistic exploration of feminism has been an integral part of modern theatre. The way with which half of the human population was compelled to lead a subservient life is a tragic story that has its roots in the origin of mankind. Feminist thinkers have always stood for freedom, choices, bodily integrity, gender equality and rights of women. Many plays have delved in to this area to search answers for the questions raised by these feminist ideologists. Feminism has enriched the modern theatre with its revolutionary thoughts and in return the theatre has given momentum to feminist movement throughout the world.
Play is essentially an art form that can exist without the need of an ideology. Various thought processes have certainly shaped theatre, but at the end of the day a play works only on its own artistic merits. The ideology, social relevance, intellectual discourses and the political leniency associated with the play are irrelevant if the play fails to achieve its goal i.e to strike a chord with the audience. These were some of the thoughts that were running in my mind when I watched the Kannada Play “Eevalajjiyoo Adamajjanoo” (Grandma Eve and Grandpa Adam) directed by Viddu Uchil on 20th April 2014.
“Eevalajjiyoo Adamajjanoo”, written by Mohana Chandra U around three decades back, is a feminist play that raises fundamental questions about human society. This One act play is a Russian roulette of words between Purusha (Man) and Prakruthi (Nature). These are the only two characters in this 70minutes long play. An air catastrophe throws Purusha in to a deserted island. He meets a woman on that island and finds out that she is also a survivor from another disaster. This chance meeting initiates a war of words between them. The ensuing debate explores the place of women in modern society. Prakruthi is a personification of women who have been suppressed by men for centuries. She seeks answers for the atrocities against women, caused by men in the name of culture, customs, religion, politics and everything. The godforsaken island, which is devoid of basic necessities, acts as a rough terrain on which she intends to have an equal fight with her male counterpart.
Purusha represents men who have deceitfully exploited women to satisfy their needs and to capture power. His authoritarian tone, cunningness and chauvinism are nothing but the result of his patriarchal mindset. He wants to ‘own’ Prakruthi and enslave her just the way the world has treated women since days immemorial. But this island is no ordinary place. Everyday is a struggle here. Death is looming in the shape of rain, wild animals, darkness and hunger. A man, unlike woman, is not equipped to adapt to such hostility. It is suggested in the play that a constant oppression has made women strong enough to face any drastic changes in life. When a man and a woman are pushed to such harsh environment, man comes out as spineless. His aggression, superiority complex and pre-occupied notions about womanhood fall flat on earth and he witnesses an inherent power in woman to lead a self-reliable life completely independent of him. This revelation dismisses Purusha’s equally vigorous arguments and shatters his thought process. His efforts to defend his “right” go in vain as Prakruthi rejects the idea that man is needed for a woman to lead life. She dismisses the place of a father by saying that he is mere a mode of convenience for birth. In the process, she asks an interesting question: “When is your birthday? Is it the day you come out of mother’s womb or is it the day when you are conceived?”
We see a strong woman in Prakruthi; and in spite of all the efforts to prove his sexist points, Purusha turns out to be an aggressive, opportunist and at the end an escapist character. Prakruthi raises children and grows as an independent human being, while Purusha, as accused by his female counterpart, proves that men do not consider women to complete men.
As I mentioned earlier, this play was written 30 years ago. True to its time, the play is rhetoric of feminist ideas. The playwright has used all the clichés that one can find in a popular feminist literature. Subtlety is not what you will find here. The protagonists shout out their anger, hostility and resentments in every single line. The constant frustration of the characters to prove their points sometime comes out as sloganeering. Minimalist premise compels two characters to engage in heated discussion to keep the play moving. The idea of stripping man and woman of their history and placing them in a courtroom of sort is indeed very interesting. The playwright gives them some thought-provoking lines to mouth. But the play struggles to rise above the sense of bitterness with which it started. Even though there are attempts made to contemporize this particular play, some of the dialogues come out as contrived. Nevertheless, the strong undercurrent of modernism makes this play an interesting piece of art.
Viddu, an alumnus of Rangayana, has very successfully transformed this play in to a visual experience. Along with directing this One Act play he has also portrayed the leading character. He oozes life in to the character of Purusha, as he goes through existential crises. Once an arrogant and a dominant alpha-man, Purusha eventually becomes submissive, rather reluctantly. He is torn between going back to his life and staying with Prakrathi. Viddu showcases his dilemma quite successfully with his expressions, gestures and dialogues. Manjula Subrahmanya as Prakruthi is a revelation. A trained dancer herself, she uses expressions to assert the dominance of her character in the play. She develops the character of Prakruthi as an answer to age old oppression. The way she portrays that character is commendable. The set design is minimalist. The giant mushroom in the backdrop might remind the audience of the genesis chapter, where Adam and Eve have their origins. It also highlights the gloomy environment of the deserted island and instantly takes audience in to the middle of the intense drama. Music and sound have been designed by Rohan S Uchil and Suresh Balila. They have handled it decently well. Light design by Praveen Bajal is minimalist and it sets the mood of the drama.
Viddu Uchil’s ‘Journey Theatre’ deserves applause for the production of this play. Mangalore and the coastal region have not been very active in terms of serious theatre works. There is a necessity to build an intellectual audience group who can rise above the farce and situational comedies that are prevailing in the theatre arena and appreciate more serious plays. Eevalajjiyu Adamajjanu is indeed a step in the right direction.
Play: Eevalajjiyoo Adamajjanoo (Kannada)
Playwright: Mohana Chandra U
Director: Viddu Uchil
Viddu Uchil (as Purusha)
Manjula Subrahmanya (as Prakruthi)
Music: Rohan S Uchil and Suresh Balila
Light: Praveen Bajal