Family drama, gender stereotypes in this ‘Ladies Sangeet’

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New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) While a traditional Indian wedding is surrounded by a plethora of decoration, finery, entertainment, wedding planners, mehendiwalis and what have you, a play titled “Ladies Sangeet” explores much more than family drama and addresses issues of gender stereotypes and homosexuality.

The third of the five plays under the Aditya Birla Group’s Aadyam banner, scripted and directed by Purva Naresh, “Ladies Sangeet” was staged at Kamani Auditorium in the capital on Sunday.

It opens with the protagonist, Radha, engaged in an intense debate with her mother on issues like her trousseau, her impending wifely duties and marital sex et al.

As the play progresses, we realise that Radha’s mother, Megha, and her father Yash have been staying in separate rooms because of his rumoured affair with another woman – but she is has to put up a smiling face for the sake of a smooth wedding.

Adding to the drama is the battle between Radha’s grandmother and her sister over their different choices of wedding music.

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With the backdrop of an extravagant wedding, the play is a strong critique of gender stereotypes and Indian society’s rejection of homosexuality.

“Weddings and sangeets are the most joyous celebrations of a man and a woman coming together. Because of this setting, gender became the other obvious exploration. However, no argument sustains itself for long if not held engagingly,” Naresh explained.

The plot takes a slightly more thematic direction in the second half.

As Megha breaks her long standing silence with her husband and decides to accept his second wife, she is awakened to his homosexuality.

Yash’s mother all his life considered it a disease — a sign of society’s incomprehensibility of anything beyond hetro-sexuality.

What is interesting to note is that Megha, who lives with the notion that her husband has betrayed their marriage, keeps questioning her own capabilities and qualities as a wife. Her judgement of herself as an undutiful wife with not enough charm and beauty — perhaps the cause of her husband’s betrayal — is a result of the sexism that has overpowered the minds of both the sexes.

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The hilarious situations arising in a house, which is preparing for the sangeet ceremony, are full of satirical jokes and dialogues.

Bride-to-be Radha is constantly being trained for the patriarchal institution of marriage. Her mother’s ideologies don’t allow her to think beyond certain rituals and ideas.

“Treat your parents-in-law like gods. When you touch their feet, you are supposed to bow down in a certain manner. Wait, I will teach you,” says the mother to her daughter.

“Rituals are important. They may ask you to cook something on the first day. Satisfy all their demands.”

She opposes patriarchy, saying: “Why do we women trouble ourselves by wearing a 10 kg lehanga and excessive jewellery on the day of the wedding and in the future by bearing kids and making all kinds of sacrifices?”

The play touches on patriarchy in almost every scene and successfully conveys to the audience that there is a set of subtle and more ingrained cognitive biases that are deeply rooted in our society and culture.

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“Ladies Sangeet emerges from the constant arguments I have had with my teachers and gurus about the space for the contemporary in classical arts, which in our case has been steeped into mythological text,” Naresh explained.

The non-acceptance of the husband’s sexuality, the wife blaming herself for the unsuccessful marriage, the bride to be being taught by the mother to embrace stereotypical mannerisms and the daughters constantly been moulded according to their gender are the various problems addressed through the play.

Getting rid of the stereotypes is surely not a piece of cake for both the men and women yet the director maintains the genre of comedy by giving it a happy ending. The family finally acceptS Yash’s sexuality and the daughter’s marriage is called off but they continue with the sangeet ceremony to bring everybody together and have a nice celebration.

Addressing the gender-based prejudices, “Ladies Sangeet” with its decent comedy was surely a watchable play.



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