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Theatre for a cause

Bhroona takes up the issue of female foeticide, an issue that has been a matter of great concern in recent years



PERTINENTThe production treated the problem in all its complexity

Theatre, from its inception, has been didactic in nature. Governmental agencies, social and political activists have often used theatre to educate people on various issues because a play can communicate a message far more effectively than any other form of propaganda. Street theatre has played an important role in awareness campaigns. But connoisseurs are likely to dub this kind of theatre as inferior, because the message takes priority over artistic merit. There is no real complexity or conflict because the argument is generally one-sided. The other side is either denied a voice or allowed its say only to be condemned.

It is here that Rajendra Karanth's latest play Bhroona (foetus) scores. Besides being a sensitive actor, Rajendra Karanth has the unique distinction of writing and directing his own plays. His plays have won his employers, the Corporation Bank, top prizes in a number of inter-bank cultural festivals. Bhroona was judged the best among 18 plays from all over the country in a contest held at Poona recently. The play also won awards for best acting, best sets and the best original script. The bank had arranged a staging of the play for its employees and the public at H.N. Kalakshetra recently.

The play revolves round female foeticide, an issue which has caused great concern among all the right-minded people in the recent years. In spite of all that women have achieved in various fields, the birth of a girl child is not considered an event to be celebrated. Scanning, a process which has revolutionised the medical sciences, has proved fatal for the female foetus. Though doctors are bound by law not to reveal the sex of the foetus, unscrupulous gynaecologists have abused the knowledge to make easy money.

Repercussions

Law alone cannot put an end to a crime which has so many social, economic and emotional repercussions. Women themselves may help perpetuate the crime because they know from experience how miserable life can be for a girl child. The illusion of salvation and security a son brings and the fear of the financial burden that the birth of a girl implies drive many to the crime. The more enlightened may claim the right of individuals to choose what child they want. Any attempt to sensitise people to the evil and to educate them must take into consideration all these arguments. There is also the apathy of the society to cope with. It is only when it affects someone close to us that we wake to the horror.

Written in consultation with K.S.Vimala, one of the leading figures in the struggle for women's rights, Bhroona treats the problem in all its complexity. In the play Vimala plays a role that comes naturally to her, that of an activist. Her husband, Prasad (Rajendra Karanth) though a little cynical about women-libbers, lets his wife indulge in her whims, but has no compunction in helping his gynaecologist-tenant in female foeticide and taking a cut from her. Both he and the doctor are exposed when Vidya's best friend nearly loses her life because of their act. It is only when Vidya wants to kill her own foetus to atone for his sin that Prasad realises the heinousness of his act.

Karanth's technique, of making Prasad a lively, lovable character and getting him to narrate the story of his past misdeeds, contributes to the success of the play. His command over the spoken dialect and sharp wit are the main assets of the play. Bhroona is an example of a more rounded, well-written propaganda play, which is artistically pleasing as well. With an activist like Vimala in the team, the play should go a long way towards enlightening people about one of the worst crimes being committed in our midst.

LAXMI CHANDRASHEKAR

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