Sahib Singh with daughter Mallika Singh. (Photo Jaipal Singh)
"Society, politics, history, mythology... everything is against the woman. And its repercussions are for all to see and feel in these times, as the cases and incidents of rape, sexual harassment against women, have seen a painful and alarming increase. As a writer and theatre director, the stage is my space for protest, showing the real picture and questioning the status quo, which I have attempted to do in my new play,” says Sahib Singh, about his new play Vagina Talks.
Singh is the director of Adakar Manch, Mohali, and his plays are known to raise issues and concerns of today. He believes that artists can create change and make a difference, however small. Vagina Talks has emerged from many reflections and internal negotiations. “If we didn’t believe, there would be no change. We have to start somewhere and I decided to begin dialogues on gender, sexuality, violence, and patriarchy through something hard-hitting, which is a new effort in Punjabi theatre,” says Singh.
For Vagina Talks, Singh draws references from our history, mythology and modern society to question the notions of patriarchy, domination of men and an unequal space that is given to a woman. “In Mahabharata, Draupadi is looked at as the reason or culprit behind the war while Sita’s crossing of the laxman rekha was the most important step towards an individual decision. Right or wrong, it was a decision. But we never look or understand their side. Here and now, be it the heinous Delhi rape case, little girls being raped and murdered, the more recent case of Hyderabad-based veterinary doctor, who was raped and burnt, as a society we are going backwards, with feudal culture and regressive thought processes surrounding us. This play strives to talk of these issues, with honesty, boldness and clarity. How long will we keep pushing things under the carpet and not question,” reflects Singh.
The play, which is in Punjabi, has songs by Paul Kaur and poetry by Simran Aks, with Raza Heer singing live while the music has been composed by Atul and Sarang Sharma. The title of the play comes from Singh’s philosophy that the vagina is an organ, neither is it sacred nor is it just a reproductive organ. “When we treat it like a machine and not part of the human body, we disrespect it and that’s when the inequality is created”, he says. Moments of intimacy, says Singh, are pious, and the consent of both a man and a woman to be together is paramount. “Friendship between a man and a woman is integral and the change should begin from home, where boys and girls are encouraged to talk, share and respect each other as individuals, where every point of view is respected and there is room for a dialogue, not a monologue. Why must a man be an owner of anyone, why must there be a power game, it’s the mind and not the body which should make decisions,” he says.
Singh adds that it is a sensitive play, one that he hopes to travel with. His daughter Mallika is in the lead role. It is a solo performance by the 23 year old, who is a fine arts graduate from Delhi College of Art and has been doing theatre with her father for many years now. “The play is based on the ideology of our group, something we all believe in. We are saying something important, valuable, and with responsibility,” says Singh.
He says that the idea of having his daughter play this role was to emphasise on the point that we need to have open conversations and not apprehensions. “If I as a father can have this conversation with my daughter, who has been brought up as an individual, why can’t you? We discussed the many dimensions and layers of the production through discussions and I am very happy with how sensitively and powerfully she has been able to bring the idea to life. This is the time to build trust, shape the future of our children with strong principles and grow together,” says Singh.