Women and a whole lot of Vaginas

April 9th, 2008

Last Friday, the Times of India, Bangalore brought down from Bombay, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal’s production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. For those who don’t know, The Vagina Monologues is an Obie Award-winning episodic play written by Eve Ensler which ran at the off-Broadway Westside Theatre after a limited run at HERE Arts Center in 1996. It is made up of a varying number of monologues read by a varying number of women. These monologues were written by Ensler after interviewing more than 200 women worldwide. Each year she adds a new monologue to the collection.

If you haven’t seen a production, I recommend you do or at least read the script if you can get hold of it. If you’re in India, Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal’s is the best (and best-known) rendition with over 75 shows around the country so far.

Of course, in Times Of India’s inimitable style, we were only told that there would be a showing of the play on Wednesday, with no mention of who was performing it! Even at the show, there were no brochures or handouts – highly cheap considering the pots of money that they make.

Still the performance was worth the ToI bullsh*t. While Dolly Thakore seems to be getting a little past her prime, the other three actors were really really good. While the monologues ranged from stories of rape and genital mutilation to body image and sexuality, what I liked best was the fact that these women were being completely unapologetic about their needs and wants and desires. It was an extremely positive way of looking at women and their vaginas, rather than the usual “why bother about what women want” kind of attitude that tends to prevail in India.

Watching the play made me think of an oddity in the human condition. Women have the only organ solely existing for pleasure – the clitoris. In fact, the clitoris has 8000 nerve fibres, more than double the number in the penis. So women can have better (more powerful) orgasms than men. They also can have vaginal orgasms (and vaginal+clitoral orgasms). Some women have been known to have orgasms just by clenching their vaginal muscles!! And of course, there is the multiple-orgasm.

Us poor men have nothing compared to this. And still we want sex more. We want it so much more that we are willing to rape, to molest, to coerce, to visit prostitutes, to watch porn and masturbate – anything to have an orgasm. And it isn’t even nearly as great as what women can have.

And yet, 19% of women have never experienced orgasm.

I bet that men are just trying to have that elusive five-minute-long mind-blowing-vaginal-clitoral-multiple orgasm. They are desperate cause they know it’ll never happen.

And women? Well, hell – at least masturbate!! You’re wasting something incredible. Don’t let us men take it away from you. Follow the example of the woman who became a prostitute to women just to hear them moan.

Moan and come. It’s apparently one of the most satisfying things out there.

And we will bemoan our lack of vaginas.

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A week of theatricals

March 11th, 2008

Not exactly a bunch of reviews, but Bangalore has seen a lot of good English theatre in the last week, and here’s my take on them.

Firstly there was Lucknow ’76 written and directed by Abhishek Majumdar on the 1st and 2nd. Then there was my Poile Sengupta’s play Keats was a Tuber on the 4th, 5th and 6th. And finally this weekend just past, there was Invisible River by Gautam Raja.

Seeing these three plays in short succession makes one feel that English language theatre in Bangalore in still standing and those (including yours truly) who were ready to perform the final rites, were a bit hasty.

It’s not that the plays/performances were without flaws but they gave one a sense that it was worth the while to travel an hour (or longer) in maddening Bangalore traffic to watch them.

Lucknow ’76 has an interesting premise. Working across two periods in the history of the city, 1876 and 1976, the playwright tried to show the similarities between British imperialism and the Emergency. His portrayal of the period in 1876 when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India was extremely well done. Unfortunately, the 1976 period was not nearly as well done, nor was it clearly linked together with the other story. Overall, it seemed like a good effort, but needed just a little more coherency. The acting was good, however, since there weren’t enough brochures around, I wasn’t able to figure out who played what role! The lighting was a little off the mark, tending to come in after the actors had moved. The music was performed live on stage with a single guitarist who also sang. Again, thanks to the lack of brochure, I don’t know who he was. He provided a good mood for the performance.

Two days later, was Keats was a Tuber. Directed by Ashish Sen and produced by Voices, the play was a revival of a over-ten-year-old performance, again directed by Ashish, with a mildly different cast. Pathy Aiyar took over from Preetham Koilpillai in the role of Raghu, while Stanley Pinto replaced Chippy Gangjee and Chandana Vasistha Aiyar played Damini. The production was not bad, with live music from Jagdish and Madhuri, but I was disappointed overall (having read the book… sorry script!). The play is primarily about the problems faced by Indians who speak English as opposed to their native language. Set in the English Department of a small town college, it talks of life and love and the English language. Shiv Kumar, as Mr Iyer, one of the lecturers, was stiff and wasn’t able to bring out any nuance. Ranita Hirji (Mrs. Nathan) the head of department, who asks Raghu (her nephew) to join the department to ostensibly fill up a three month teaching vacancy before leaving for higher studies abroad, was limited to being a college lecturer (formerly one in real life as well!). Stanley was good, Pathy was competent, Chandana was incapable of acting. Overall, I would have expected the play to be done differently (again having read the script), but it is upto the director! Then again, I felt that most of the audience seemed to have enjoyed it – which was the point.

Invisible River by Gautam Raja, directed by Ruchika Chanana, is set on the banks of the Ganga in Allahabad where a young doctor fighting against blind superstition is trying to clean up the river, while a young scientist is trying to prove that the river contains bacteriophages (virii that kill bacteria) which may help save lives. Starting off slowly, the premise pushes the play along with strong performances from Pritham Kumar and Veena Appiah. As I could see, the play would do well with a better child actor (and better lines for him!), while the entire concept of the Saraswathi being the invisible river is forgotten by the end of the play, even though it’s in the title!

Whew! Long post! I hope you managed to catch at least one of these performances this week. I’ll keep you updated if I hear that of repeat showings.

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