(Last Updated on : 21/09/2012)
Women directors of 1990s have been responsible for some of the best works in Indian theatre. It was from their midst that the avant-garde work of women directors of 1990s appeared. It took up the many strands, which had evolved through the post-independence decades, the folk, the classical, Western high bourgeois, but also the feminist and the cinematic, to weave them together into a self-reflective modernist idiom. The particular focus as also the idiom differed vastly.
The Kirti Jain, who had served as director of the National School of Drama, working in the liberal tradition spawned by Indian People Theatre Association
, dramatized such works as Urvashi Butalia's The Other Side of Silence, relating the experience, particularly of the women and children, who had survived the trauma of partition.
Neelam Man Singh, of Chandigarh
, who also worked with B.V. Karanth in Bhopal
and was to enter into long-term collaborative work with him, reverted to the folk idiom in a novel way, working with the performance traditions of Punjab
, but in an ensemble made up of urban and rural artistes, who pooled together their knowledge of a range of performance traditions, to explore the multiple facets of female sexuality, of womanhood, and of motherhood.
Anamika Haksar, trained in erstwhile Soviet Union, with her deep insight into Stanisklavskian modes of exploring interiority and its externalization in narrative, and her subsequent, equally formative training in the National School of Drama under B.V. Karanth, dramatized works as different as the Tamil epic Silappadhikaran, and Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, to explore the overlapping selves of wife and courtesan, ascetic and madman. The range was immense.
If Tripurari Sharma, playwright and director, elected to work with marginalized groups, peasants, factory workers, slums-dwellers, most often women and children, to produce and direct plays about and sometimes with them, Amal Allana worked most often with the monumental. She staged a spectacular King Lear with veteran character-actor Manohar Singh in a memorable performance as the king. But she also cast Manohar Singh as Himmat Mai in the play of the same name, a Hindi adaptation of Brecht's Mother Courage.
Manohar Singh was beginning to evolve the gestures, postures, gait and stance of a woman performing domestic tasks. However, in order to ensure that he did not disappear into the role, it was decided that his voice remain unchanged. Yet it was an awkward fit. He sounded more like a eunuch than like a man playing a woman.
Allana also experimented with shifting gender identities, of being a woman, becoming a woman, in her next play: the Hindi version of Satish Altekar's Marathi play, Begum Barve, in which an old actor who had once played bit parts, enacts the grand roles of the Marathi stage performed by Bal Gandharva, the legendary female impersonator of the Marathi stage.