The haunted hunt
A play premiering this weekend introduces you to the world of five contemporary 'chudails' and the arrival of a human with an agenda
The word "chudail", thanks to its template treatment in Ramsay Brothers' films, and the many shows they have inspired, evokes the image of a white saree-clad woman with long hair, feet turned backwards and strangely lit eyes that induce fear in the faint-hearted and laughter in others simultaneously. But times have changed, and it's imperative that chudails move on, too. Shikaar, a play in Hindi by Patchworks Ensemble premiering this weekend, spins a contemporary world around its leading ladies, who reside in a city inhabited by both, human and otherworldly beings. Well adjusted in this set-up, they have professional lives, too.
The story and concept is by journalist and author Shubhangi Swarup whose debut novel Latitudes of Longing was shortlisted for the 2018 JCB Prize for Literature, while the final outcome is a devised performance by actors Puja Sarup, Rachel D'souza, Shruti Vyas, Neha Singh, Reshma Shetty, Saurabh Nayyar and Dheer Hira. Director Sheena Khalid, who corrects our use of the word "witch", shares, "It's a group of chudails who meet up in an old bungalow to celebrate a big occasion in the community. But the arrival of a government official changes things." Elaborating on the kind of contemporary lives the ladies lead, Sarup says, "They have jobs. One of them is an entrepreneur who runs a beauty and hair-care business. It's a sisterhood of chudails."
The cast includes Neha Singh, Reshma Shetty, Saurabh Nayyar, Rachel D’Souza, Shruti Vyas, Puja Sarup and Dheer Hira
The collaboration with Swarup stems from the fact that she and Sarup go way back, and creative exchange has always taken place between the ensemble and Swarup, who co-founded Sitara Studio, a performing arts space in Lower Parel.
The twist in the plot, Khalid explains, comes from the development that the government wants to curb chudail activity in the town which has been on the increase and to that end, it launches a mandatory chudail-identification programme that the residents of the city are supposed to train in. And when this plan disrupts their evening of celebration, it turns friends into suspects and victims into predators.
"By not picking the realm of everyday women, the play allows us to access the world of the absurd," says Khalid. "But through that, we explore themes like how mobs are formed and instigated — in real life and social media. And how patriarchy invariably pits women against one another."
On: August 16, 17, 18 (multiple shows)
At: Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu.
Log on to: bookmyshow.com
Entry: Rs 500
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