You know you can expect something great from a play that has been performed for the last 15 years in India. The episodic play titled The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler has been adapted in over 22 languages all over the world. The original play has been performed since 1996 and you would still find theatres filled up to revisit this liberating experience. Liberating, that is how you can describe this play, if you have any inhibitions about saying the word Vagina aloud (which is a body part like any other), you will get rid of that in the first five minutes of the play. Over 200 women were interviewed and they were asked the same questions but every response was different as every vagina is different.
As you enter Canvas Laugh Club before the play, you get a feeling that this is going to be much more than a few laughs. It is surprising to see a half full crowd for a play this old and at that time you realize that you will be probably watching it more than once. As the play starts, the first order of the business is to get the awkwardness out of the way. There are still many who cannot say the word Vagina aloud and everyone is made to say that at least a couple of times before the play can start. Three ladies (Dilnaz Irani, Dolly Thakore and Mona Ambegaonkar) took the stage dressed in black as Kaizad Kotwal took the stage for a couple of minutes to ask us to switch off our phones (repeating it for the people who didn’t hear it the first couple of times) and talking about the struggles this 15-year-old play has gone through to perform in India. He soon left the stage to the ladies and they delivered (you wouldn’t have looked at your phone even if it rang).
After the audience gets comfortable with the word vagina, that’s when the real story starts as they take us through an experience of 200 women and what they feel about their vaginas. Talking about the stories might defeat the purpose because we probably cannot talk about it the way they did. Each woman takes a turn in a well-rehearsed manner as they introduce us to a topic/story and then proceed to tell us how those 200 women felt about it and that feeling echoes within every woman in the audience.
If it is not clear from the title, the play is meant to shock and educate you. The cast has no qualms about uttering Vagina in different ways as people around the world say it and they continue to have no filter when it comes to the language. They don’t even shy from moaning on the stage and that experience is what makes this play liberating. In the end, the ladies have succeeded in liberating women from talking about their vaginas and loving it as they love their body and at the same time educating the men on how it is a separate entity by itself.
Out of the three ladies, Dinaz Irani’s performance stands out as she shows us the different kind of moans. She must have donned at least three avatars with different Indian accents as she narrated stories about women who fell in love with themselves. Mona Ambegaonkar’s switch in accents as she changed between characters in a single story impressed me the most and the way she brought us to tears as she narrated the plight of a single woman among the hundreds of Bosnian Rape victims. She cried as she narrated the story and we all wept with her. Dolly Thakore, on the other hand, had a shining moment when she narrated one of Eve Ensler’s own story about her grand daughter giving birth and being in that same room. And how that moment made her worship Vaginas as the miracle they are.
The play is being directed by Kaizad Kotwal and Mahabanoo-Mody Kotwal. The play started way before its time and although the stories might be old, their relevance hasn’t diminished. If you have already seen this one, you know you can watch it again.
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