City-based Rangasthalam Actors Studio turns the spotlight on International Women’s Day theme for this year ‘Balance for Better’ with its play #Feminist. The International Women’s Day initiative is to build a gender-balanced world and have an inclusive approach, and the play throws light on feminism, gender equality, and women empowerment. Written and directed by Nitin Mane, the 60-minute Hindi play humorously discusses complex issues. “What is feminism and what is a balanced measure of gender equality? Does the current discourse of feminism in India transcend socio-economic classification?” asks Nitin, wondering if a move towards balanced gender relations has actually begun at home or is simply part of drawing room conversations.

A Look At The Play

The play has five characters: two males and three females from different strata, with varying expectations and approaches to life. We see a wealthy man who yearns for recognition, and three women with opposing personalities; One woman has an obedient mindset, the other is a feminist who wants to bring in radical changes. Then, the third is struggling with poverty and is therefore simply disinterested in any discussion on feminism. “Through[out] this play, we make fun of social mores and look at them from different tangents. The characters have peculiar traits and the audience can have a nice laugh,” shares Nitin – she also enacts a part in the play.

In the end, the play questions if society is ready to understand and embrace complex issues. Nitin comments that “Feminism is well-classified in the western world and transgenders too have a distinct identity. In India, we are yet to completely open up, we discuss transgenders in hushed tones and we rarely talk about their rights.” The production is presented by the Nritya Theatre Ensemble, the theatre wing of Nritya Forum for Performing Arts. He adds that “[the play] is an attempt to look where we are as a society and whether we can create an inclusive environment to understand each other.”

The Director and Play Origins

Actor & Director Nitin Mane for #Feminist. Nritya Theatre Ensemble, India, 2019. Photo Courtesy of TheHindu.com

Having done his master’s in theatre, Nitin has been in the field for a decade, writing and acting in plays and television series. “I’ve also been through a lot of struggles when auditioning for roles,” he smiles. Currently, he is working as an acting professor at Annapurna College of Film and Media. Nitin wrote the story of #Feminist for a college function. He recalls, “The students wanted me to do a play and I wrote this, about six months ago.” The story moved many people and he went on to develop the characters and plot to make it a full-scale production. He’s been teaching acting for the last two years in Hyderabad and loves the daily interactions with students. He quotes Russian theatre personality, actor and director Konstantin Stanislavski to point out that acting is not always an inborn talent. “Stanislavski proved that acting can be taught. He studied the lives of many performers and developed his theory that acting is an art that can be taught, like any other skill. Different accents, acting techniques and knowing how to use one’s body will help to make you a professional. Acting is a combination of theory and practice,” he says.

The Nritya Theatre Ensemble presented #Feminist at Nritya Forum of Performing Arts in Banjara Hills and Gachibowli on November 2 and 3.

This article appeared in TheHindu.com on November 2, 2019, and has been reposted with permission. For the original article, click here

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