Mumbai Mirror, Thursday, February 7, 2008
“Sense and Sensuality”
Kissa Yoni Ka, the Hindi avatar of Vagina Monologues manages to walk the translation tightrope without succumbing to vulgarity
There is a certain robust energy about Vagina Monologues that has kept it alive on the Mumbai stage for so long. This winter, it is back in a new avatar as Kissa Yoni Ka – pink replacing the red on stage, Hindi replacing English in speech. The translation must have been a tricky affair. Talking about sex and sexuality in Hindi means either mouthing a series of expletives or a set of unheard of Sanskrit terms that sound very out of place in spoken language. But the task has been handled deftly. The original American stories sound very much at home in their new Parsi, Marathi, Punjabi settings. They hardly betray their ‘foreign’ origin though at times one wishes that the translators had adapted more than just the language. ‘My Short Skirt’ for instance, would make more sense in the Hindi heartland as ‘My Tight Kurti’ or some such equivalent of the clothing that becomes an excuse for branding women as ‘immoral’.
The language walks the tightrope skillfully, avoiding the pitfalls of titillation and vulgarity. But not all the actors take to it comfortably. The director, Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal and stage veteran Dolly Thakore, speak the language with so much strain that the impact is diluted.
The monologues address a number of issues such as rape, sexual regression, orgasm, mutilation and childbirth – all of which connect with the primary female sexual organ. The play is neither preachy nor vulgar. It gets aggressive only to make its point, but at times you wonder whether the audience grappling with the overdose of shock therapy is being able to make the connect with the real substance at all.
The play’s pro-women stand is at the expense of male bashing – men abuse and women please. The rebellion against men using ‘cunt’ as a term of abuse is also a little exaggerated considering ‘dick’ is no less abusive. But all in all, the boisterous feminist energy is well-meaning and infectious. The play is very likely to uplift the spirit of women by expressing solidarity, which is achievement enough given that women don’t really have it too good in this country even today. But the real challenge for the play will be to move out of plush venues into the heart of this country and play in conservative settings where liberation and empowerment are truly missing. Hopefully the Hindi translation will help the team do just that.
The playwright Eve Ensler believes that a woman’s empowerment is directly related to her sexuality, the centre of which is the vagina. Those of us who think that the secret to empowerment (and even sexuality) lies in the mind and not the vulva might find the play taking itself too seriously at times. Real issues concerning women run much deeper. But no one can deny the courage and relevance of this effort.