The making of the other
Through the metaphor of magic, a new play lays bare the process of othering, where asking questions is sacrilege
Whether it was the Holocaust — remnants of which scattered across concentration camps-turned-museums still shake your belief in humanity — or the everyday resistance that inter-faith marriages are met with, the othering of those unlike oneself is a process that has repeated itself perilously in the course of history. Asmit Pathare breaks it down simply when he says, "To make a line drawn on a sheet of paper appear shorter, you draw a longer one next to it. To validate ourselves, we invalidate someone. To love being Indians, we love to hate Pakistan." Us & Them is his new play, and the world of blatant binaries that we have come to inhabit is what the playwright-director has been grappling with for the last one year.
The Aarambh Mumbai production has its roots in a lecture titled Rashtravad banaam Janvaad (Nationalism versus Democracy) by Nivedita Menon, which the writer and professor of political thought at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University delivered as part of a series in 2016. Here, teachers came forward to present their idea of nationalism, in the wake of events that had transpired on the JNU campus. "I have since been thinking of how binaries are created in society," shares Pathare, adding that he also delved into Arundhati Roy’s Listening to Grasshoppers and Sugata Bose’s The Nation As Mother as part of the research.
The plot unfolds as a metaphor and revolves around the story of a magician and his mentee, played by Kalyan Choudhury and Kaustav Sinha. The magician uses binary thinking for his sleight of hand, and the chela wants to learn the tricks of the trade. There is another community in the play, represented by two women, played by Zinnia Ranji and Shruti Bijnoria. "Among the women, there is no one hero or protagonist. The community itself creates magic," explains Pathare. "Through his protégé, the magician propagates his idea of the community and nation, inducing the idea of othering the women in the process." When the chela starts asking questions, the magician diverts his attention to distant issues.
Sounds familiar? While the gullible disciple in the play can be herded away from matters of significance, the role of theatre is to help the viewers see through far more sinister plots unravelling around them.
On Today, 12 pm (Conversation between Nivedita Menon and Jerry Pinto)
At Harkat Studios, Versova, Andheri West.
On Today, 6 pm and 9 pm (Play)
At Prithvi Theatre, Juhu.
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Entry Rs 300
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