Veteran theatre individual Mangai, who turns 60 this yr, says that the phrase ‘survival’ describes her oeuvre greatest
In her first theatre workshop in Tirunelveli, thespian and scholar Mangai met an individual she least anticipated to see: a younger lady who rolled beedis for a dwelling. The girl advised Mangai after the workshop: “I by no means knew that my again may very well be so straight.” It was a second of revelation. “It additionally had an uncanny connection to dancer Chandralekha’s assertion about discovering the backbone in dance,” says Mangai.
For Mangai, who turns 60 and completes 35 years in theatre this yr, the stage can be about ‘bodily liberation’. “It’s definitely completely different for ladies. We dwell in a society the place the girl’s physique is constantly subjected to disgrace or handled as an object of gaze. In theatre, the socially constructed photos across the physique are damaged. When it’s a trans physique or a queer physique, it turns into a good larger assertion. Theatre allows you to be free along with your physique, to personal it.”
Mangai’s journey in theatre is crammed with extraordinary moments. She fondly recollects staging a play on the enduring Manalur Maniyamma, the privileged caste widow, who grew to become a Communist, at an AIDWA convention in Nagapattinam. “We took six phases from the story, basically round Maniyamma’s riot in opposition to Brahminical widowhood, her shift in direction of Gandhian ideology, and her doubts about socio-political questions which led her to Left politics. Additionally, how she geared up herself to deal with threats by studying to experience a bicycle and by practising silambam.
Mangai says she was not satisfied about bringing Maniyamma as a personality into the play. “We lastly selected to herald her spirit, which resides in every of us. Six folks performed the position: anybody sporting a crimson scarf was Maniyamma.” A day after the play, an aged lady turned up. She advised them about how Maniyamma had given her a experience on her bicycle when she was a toddler, after which she handed over a small donation to the group.
Mangai began dabbling in theatre within the Nineteen Eighties together with Chennai Kalai Kuzhu and AIDWA’s Sakthi Kalai Kuzhu. But it surely was not till 1990, after attending the Expressions workshop organised by Majlis, an organisation that works with legislation and tradition, that she recognised theatre as her calling. As author, translator and educational, Mangai was spoilt for selection. “However I selected theatre as a result of it had area for collective and democratic work. Additionally, it served as a hyperlink between the politics we believed in and the shape we selected to precise ourselves.”
Theatre teams for ladies
Naangal Varugirom, directed by Pralayan of Chennai Kalai Kuzhu, launched Mangai as an actor. Penn, an adaptation of Safdar Hashmi’s Aurat, took her to nearly each district in Tamil Nadu. Quickly she was directing performs for Chennai Kalai Kuzhu and Sakthi Kalai Kuzhu.
Mangai was additionally the founding member of Voicing Silence and Marappachi — each theatre teams dedicated to rising the participation of girls in theatre. The teams introduced in ladies from completely different walks of life to Tamil theatre — Karuppi was about ladies’s collectives and the experiences of migrant labourers; in Sudalaiamma, a graveyard employee performs the final rites of a insurgent killed in an encounter; and in Avvai and Manimegalai, traditional Tamil texts are given a feminist reinterpretation in Mangai’s fingers.
Her performs additionally critically study up to date points via a gender lens — Pacha Mannu was on feminine infanticide, Aanmaiyo Aanmai was on the disaster of masculinity within the Tamil political area, and Kaala Kanavu concerning the feminist historical past of Tamil Nadu. These theatre teams performed an enormous position in drawing transgender artistes reminiscent of Dwelling Smile Vidya, Sowmya and Revathi into Tamil theatre. In all, Mangai has directed some 35 performs.
For analysis, she has relied on writer-historian V. Geetha and Tamil poet Inquilab. “Geetha was chargeable for analysis into up to date points and Inquilab for analysis into classical texts,” she says.
Mangai believes the tales of girls are central to her theatre. “In all places, the girl’s tales stay untold.” And in war-torn Sri Lanka, much more so. When working with Batticaloa’s theatre group Surya Pengal Kalachara Kuzhu, Mangai helped enact a ritual — kulirthi (a ritual related to Kannagi temple meant to pacify and heal), which incorporates neem water, turmeric water and an evening filled with songs.
“The temple pageant takes place over 10 days in a yr, however when it’s enacted in theatre, it heals not simply Kannagi of yesteryear, but additionally the ladies from whose lives family members are made to forcibly disappear. They are saying theatre is therapeutic. I’m not a counsellor, however I can definitely say that it permits everybody to open up.”
Mangai’s theatre is predominantly feminist but when there may be one phrase that will outline her oeuvre, it’s ‘survival’. “The system is forcing us to be survivors — there are numerous phrases: most cancers survivor, rape survivor and so forth. It’s concurrently about accepting ache and resisting it. It’s about placing collectively the damaged items and maintaining ourselves intact. Whether or not my play is a few kurathi (gypsy), bard, or bhikkhuni (feminine Buddhist monk), the thought is to liberate the self.”
Her newest play, staged by Marappachi on September 2 on Fb Stay, is Siripputhaan Varudhu and is about Black Lives Matter and marginalised voices in India. “From the place I’m, I feel it’s my responsibility to find an idiom that can provide a dignified illustration of you and your tales, whether or not it’s concerning the scars of a conflict or concerning the lives of a transgender. That’s all I can do.”
The author is an unbiased Chennai-based journalist.