Scripted and directed by Shuddho Banerjee, Gharwali was presented at Sri Ram Centre, Mandi House on June 17 in the national Capital. Ismat Chughtai was known for her indomitable spirit and a fierce feminist ideology.
Gharwali revolves around the female protagonist, Lajo who is a free spirit, outspoken and audacious, hence everything that a conventional gharwali (housewife) is not. Her name is an irony as she goes about describing herself as someone without ‘laaj’ and ‘sharam’.
The story is set up in a village in north India, where Lajo, an orphan hence devoid of any social hegemony, faces all kinds of assaults and harassment from her male partners. She finally lands up as a maid servant in the house of Mirza, a single simpleton who at first treats her well, later uses her for sex, marries her and eventually follows the system of ‘talaaq’ but finally falls in love with her.
The entire series of events follow a process and that is what the audience endears in the 100 minute long play.
“I’ve a natural tendency towards solving issues regarding gender discrimination. Lajo, as a character breaks stereotypes and presents a struggle in gaining acceptance from society. I’ve placed my share of importance in ‘bazarwalas’, who represents the mindset of the entire middle class society. They love her, exploit her and call her names, but at end they have got to say ‘Lajo jaisi koi nahi’ (Lajo is matchless),” explained the director. The effort and conviction was evident on the actors’ faces and the play reached a new level with the effortless portrayal of Lajo by Mani Isha and Mirza by Qazi Kokab Farid. The final product makes for a compelling and engaging drama.
The music was presented through Fakir, the chorus of the market place and an important character for who provided momentum to the story. The endearing music by Nandini Banerjee is what made the play more entertaining. The music was a tribute to Akashvani. Certain songs had been extracted from Vivid Bharti, while some others were created during the production.