IT IS NOT A BAD WORD. And contrary to popular belief, it's not even a cuss word. Infact, as per the fantastic cast and crew of the phenomenal play 'The Vagina Monologues', whose 200th show I caught up with at the NCPA Mumbai, it's not even something that women should feel shy of looking at and even admiring it. That's Vagina we're talking about. But why you ask? Because it's there, stupid. It's a reality. More importantly, it's a body part and it's nature. It's a biological organ. That Vagina- or as the play also claims is called kunt, coochie-schnooker, honky-tonky, sugar-box- is a body part that women should be proud of, and what goes in there- or comes out from it- is also a woman's decision, and not anyone else's is the underlying and powerful message that this play seeks to spread.
The 200th show had special appearances by Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhar who read out a
beautiful poem called 'Boys are all that matter and Girls are Meant For Burning' written by Mahabano-Mody Kotwal (the co-director and producer and also actor) based on her childhood friend who suffered from dowry demands from her in-laws, followed by a dance performance by ace-choreographer Sandeep Soparkar, Jesse Randhwa and Smylie Suri based on the life of Hassina Hussein, a lively and vibrant girl whose life took a drastic turn when her boss splashed acid on her face and disfigured it and her soul, forever, because Hassina declined his advances.
After a short interval, the play started. And there was no turning back. The Vagina Monologues is no ordinary play. It might shock you, but it's not meant to churn you. Without sounding preachy, it educates you about women's freedom and the fact that she has a right to choose and to say 'No'. Fantastically performed by Mody Kotwal, Dolly Thakore, Avantika Akerkar, Sonali Sachdev and Jayati Bhatia, yesterday's show also had actor Imran Khan as one of the actors on the show; the first male actor ever on this show.
Each actor is seated in a line and is supposed to say a monologue. These monologues are a result of painstaking interviews taken by the show's original founder, the American Eves Ensler, by interviewing over 200 women all over the world and then beautifully told to the audience in the form of well-enacted and brilliantly emoted stories. Each monologue has a deep-meaning message that could keep you at the edge of your seat making you laugh at one instant, cry at the next and be shocked at the one after. Difficult to pick and choose one monologue over another, but the one with the old Parsi lady who had never looked at her vagina since the last 60-odd years and Bhatia's performance of various orgasms, stood out. So did the brilliantly-emoted monologue of a young 10-year old girl who was abused by her father's friend, but was still blamed somewhat, by her own mother. The skit 'My Short Skirt' was also very good and was a direct reference to the Marine Drive rape case that took place in 2005. The hard work and the chemistry shared by the actors on the stage shows when at the beginning of show, right after the audience is shocked, thoroughly amused and liberated- all at the same time- into saying the V-word loudly, where an act of all the five women saying a word or two in quick succession, one after the other in perfect coordination, without pause and faster than the eye can move from one actor to another, is brilliant.
I am proud to be a Mumbaikar for having being part of a city that celebrates culture, is open-minded about hosting shows of such nature and uncensored and the way it needs to be told; it reminds me that Mumbai is, after all, not just one of the most broad-minded places to live in India, but is also one of the safest places in India for women. After all, The Vagina Monologues is provocative, shocking but not erotic. It's in your face, but liberating. It's funny and serious. But at the end of it, it attempts to make you respect women, their choices, their decisions, and well, let them just 'BE'.
Picture 1: The cast and crew; from left: Sonali Sachdev, Avantika Akerkar, Mahabano Mody Kotwal, Imran Khan, Dolly Thakore and Jayati Bhatia.
Picture 2: Acid attack victim Hassina Hussein in a yellow salwar kameez in whose honour this play was dedicated to with Farhan Ahktar
Picture 3: An impromptu dance of Dolly Thakore with Sandeep Soparkar on 'Jai Ho'.