India is replete with stereotypes that reinforce prejudices against women and highlight the largely patriarchal set up of the society. Playwright Mishti Verma aims to create awareness among people about how to respect both sexes and not get blinded by regressive ideologies, through her new play titled Zubaan.

Writer Mishti Verma, director Rajesh Tiwari and actor Divya Unny during a rehearsal session of Zubaan
Writer Mishti Verma, director Rajesh Tiwari and actor Divya Unny during a rehearsal session of Zubaan

The 40-minute bilingual piece will be performed as part of YINDIA — a gender sensitisation forum. It showcases a series of monologues depicting issues such as our obsession with fair skin, search for self-identity and sexual harassment etc. Based on true-life experiences of women achievers across the country, Zubaan, featuring actors Tom Alter and Divya Unny, aims to voice the unheard voices of women who have beaten the stereotypes.

Verma, who has written the English and Hindustani piece, says, “We will portray sensitive social themes through rhetoric comic avatars. If we take a serious approach then audiences will get bored. So we are using comedy to highlight these stereotypes. Prejudices such as women make for bad drivers can compel people to think but at the same time, they also lend themselves to be adapted into a comic situation,” she adds.

In order to pay an ode to women achievers across India, Verma started conducting research six years ago. She met people including National Award, Red and White Bravery Award and Rajeev Gandhi Manav Seva Award winner Preeti Monga who is the first visually-impaired aerobics instructor in the country.

Delhi-based director Rajesh Tiwari, a National School of Drama (NSD) alumnus, who has helmed the play, says that handling such a production was a learning experience for him as he had to ensure that he didn’t let his own prejudices influence the way he guided his actors. “Feminism and masculinism are interchangeable concepts. A male can be feminine and vice versa. While directing Zubaan, I tried to focus on the morality and psychology of the characters rather than his or her sex,” he signs off.