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This one's for baby Bharat
It all started with a pledge. Last year, at a discussion organised by Save The Children, an international child rights organisation, a number of prominent women including politician Najma Heptullah, lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi and actress-turned-politician Vani Tripathi discussed issues related to motherhood. When statistics about the low rate of survival of Indian children, lowest perhaps in the world, were revealed, several of those present resolved to so something about India's problem of infant mortality. India has one of the lowest survival rates in the world. That's when theatreperson Lushin Dubey stepped in and said she would do a play that focused on child mortality.
Dubey teamed up with Asmita's Arvind Gaur to produce the hard-hitting play I Will Not Cry. "The situation of child deaths in India is shocking, " says Gaur. "How can we ignore the fact that our country has unofficially become the world's child-death capital with over 5, 000 children dying every day because of diarrhoea, pneumonia and birth-related complications - that are easily avoidable?"
The play is scripted and directed by Gaur, with Dubey playing more than 10 characters. "It was a challenge to work on such a serious subject, " says the actor. "This unusually crafted satire, instead of running as a linear story, works at many levels. It starts off on a TV set where a set of 'experts' including a bureaucrat, a film actress and an NGO worker are discussing the issue of child mortality, and jumps to three different (real-life ) case studies, while the visuals in the background evoke the bleak reality that exists in Bharat. We may pretend this India doesn't exist for us, but it does. "
The play asks several uncomfortable questions that will hopefully force some introspection and pokes fun at the way the chattering classes view the problems of the poor. To the irony that India has Formula One on the one hand and millions of children dying on the other, the socialite Pochie Sawhney has a simple solution. In her accented drawl she says: "Control population. No overpopulation, no child deaths."
The play makes some political points by mentioning the "Sanjay factor", a reference to Sanjay Gandhi's campaign of forced sterilization during the Emergency. Of course, the featherheaded film actress thinks the Sanjay being mentioned is the Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who acted as the Gandhi-loving don, Munnabhai, in the popular fim Munnabhai MBBS. "If Munnabhai had Gandhigiri, we can have Annagiri, " she states, adding a contemporary note by referring to the anti-corrpution movement launched by the social reformer Anna Hazare.
But Gaur has a question: "Why are we all waiting for an Anna to wave all our problems away? Why can't we bring out the Anna in us, do our bit for the children and let them live?" The objective, he says, "is not just to stir and sensitise people but to make them introspect on their social responsibility towards this issue".
This is Dubey and Gaur's third coproduction with a social theme. The earlier two plays dealt with women's empowerment and child abuse. Dubey's next project is a play on gender bias called Swap, in which the DNA of a male and female gets swapped. "Let people who come for an ice-cream get a jolt, " she laughs. "That's the idea. "
'I Will Not Cry' will be staged at Stein Auditorium, IHC, New Delhi, on September 1, at 6 pm and 8 pm
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