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Act of expression

Yasmin Jasdanwalla talks to Saraswathy Nagarajan about her play ‘La Loba’ and her journey in theatre

Photo: S. Gopakumar

Centrestage Yasmin Jasdanwalla says theatre is her mode of expression

With a few props and simple costumes Yasmin Jasdanwalla narrates a timeless universal tale that is as old as mankind or rather womankind. Her play ‘La Loba’ or ‘The Wolf Woman’ is an ode to women.

“It is based on a Mexican legend that an old woman had created all the animals in the world from a few bones she had collected. Then we have gone to the myth of the wolf. In many cultures, the wolf is portrayed as the preserver. For instance, the wolf protects the pack, demarcates a territory for itself and so on… Even in ‘Jungle Book,’ it was the wolf that taught Mowgli the laws of the jungle,” explains Yasmin.

From legends and myths, Yasmin makes a clean and swift transition to contemporary events to draw a clear and sharp picture of women in shackles – emotional, physical and mental.

Story of women

“I have collected the ashes of my life to give shape to that story of women. Since I come from a conservative family, I had to part ways with them to walk the path I had chosen for myself and I have moulded all those memories to portray the characters in the play,” says Yasmin

Directed by Jairo Furoto Vergara, Yasimin’s husband, ‘La Loba’ fuses mythology, contemporary events, five different languages and different styles of expressions. Not a tough task for theatre person Yasmin who straddles different cultures and effortlessly switches between English and Spanish. Her journey in theatre and life is as dramatic and colourful as any of her plays. The tall lithe model who walked the ramp for the likes of Prasad Bidappa has come a long way from the arc lights of Bangalore to a suburban house on the outskirts of the city.

“In Bangalore I was exploring different avenues. One of the routes led me to contemporary dancer Tripura Kashyap. I was with her Apoorva Dance Theatre for two years,” recalls Yasmin. Her selection for a workshop conducted by Khalid Tyabji, renowned physical and contemporary theatre director, gave her the opportunity to hone her skills and helped her understand the concept of theatre and theatrics. “Eleven of us theatre enthusiasts stayed at Hampi with Khalid and his wife Jola Cynkutis, a former student of Jerzy Grotowski’s Polish Laboratory Theatre. The problem with Indian theatre is that it is either traditional or full of clichés. Jola helped us get rid of all the clichés,” recounts Yasmin, her eyes sparkling with memories of that experience.

But the intense training periods and creative brainstorming took its toll on the participants and finally Khalid decided to disband the group.

“One became a painter, another a musician and so on. Two of us, Adil Hussain and I, decided to continue as artists,” she says.

A brief stay in Paris exposed Yasmin to a world of visual arts, music and world class architecture. “It was not theatre per se but somewhere, somehow all that helped me grow as an artiste,” she points out. But when she found that she was not going anywhere in theatre, she decided to return to India.

“I was at a loose end when I reached Kerala in 2000 along with my sister who was here to report on the International Film Festival of Kerala. During my stint with Khalid Tyabji, he had advised me to learn Kathakali if I ever got the opportunity. So I tried to find a place to teach me Kathakali and finally reached Margi,” recalls Yasmin.

But little did Yasmin guess that her trip to Kerala would also help her find her place in theatre and a director and husband who believed in her talent.

“The people in Margi told me about this Colombian theatreperson who had come to Kerala to learn Kathakali. I had no interest in meeting him. But when I met him in Kalabhavan Theatre, I realised that it was the same person who had come to Hampi when we were living there. Moreover, Jairo was able to mould the actor in me,” says Yasmin.

In Colombia, she worked in Jairo’s plays and studied and taught theatre. After seven years in Colombia, the couple and their two sons decided to settle in India.

For Yasmin and Jairo, their determination to stay true to theatre has cost them many things such as economic security, and the safety net of a job. But Yasmin avers: “We have no regrets, never. Jairo says we are like the gypsies. Where we are, that is our house and now Kerala is our home and theatre is our mode of expression.”

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