The question hour

A new play on Mahasweta Devi's story-picture book seeks to emphasise the importance of the question 'Why?'

One of Mahasweta Devi's most popular English books and her only story-picture book, The Why-Why Girl (2003) has been adapted into a Hindi play and will be staged in the city this weekend. The story is that of 10-year-old Moyna, whom the author met while  working with tribal groups.

The girl belonged to a poor tribal group called Shabars and asked a lot of questions. She would ask, 'Why do I have to walk so far to the river to get water?, 'Why can't we eat rice twice a day?' and 'Why do I have to eat the landlords' left-over food?' And while no one appreciated it, Devi was so impressed by her feistiness that she wrote the book on her.

Called Kyun Kyun Ladki, the story has been adapted to for stage by Shaili Sathyu, who possesses a diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education. Sathyu, who has written the script and directed the play, says she read the book several years ago and was instantly drawn to Moyna's inquisitive character.
But unlike the book, the play will feature three girls, who will explore the story through dance and movement. "I have taken the spirit of the book and superimposed other children on it," says Sathyu.
Talking about the difficulties of adapting the work, Sathyu says, "The book has no story and no incidents. It has nothing except characters." For Sathyu, the challenge lay in getting Moyna's story on stage and keeping the play simple and focused on elements and moments.

Devi not only wrote a book on Moyna, but also played a significant role in the girl's life. She told Moyna that answers to all her questions lay in books. This was to change her life, as she became the first to be admitted in her village primary school and later became a teacher in the same school. As a teacher, she would goad her students to ask the question 'Why?'

According to Sathyu, the objective of the play is similar. "Children, after watching the play, may ask many questions to adults. And that essentially is the point of the play.

If you don't go back with questions, then the purpose of the play is lost." The play stars actors Sharvari Deshpande, Subodh Surve, Navyata Malkani and Harshad Tambe and has been choreographed by Hamsa Moily.

Where Ramagondanahalli, Varthur Road, Whitefield
On November 4, 7 pm
Call 41242879
For Rs 250
Where Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar
On November 5, 3.30 and 7.30 pm
Call  26493982
For Rs 100

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