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Women's Day 2010 India celebrates with theatre festival

March 8, 2010International Women's Day

Be it strife-torn Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, women in South Asia are playing an increasingly important and powerful role fostering peace.

Come March 8, the International Women's Day, some 13 plays will be staged in the capital to celebrate this recognition.

The festival "Leela" March 8-15 will showcase women-oriented plays directed and staged by women from nine South Asian countries. These will be presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in association with the National School of Drama and the Jamia Millia Islamia University.

Announcing the festival here Wednesday, ICCR director-general Virendra Gupta said: "We are trying to focus on women's issues in the subcontinent to promote more cultural connectivity. Entry will be free of cost to encourage more audience and awareness."

The festival, first of its kind in the region, will feature plays from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India -- all SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) countries. The plays will be held at three venues -- Kamani Auditorium, Shri Ram Centre and Meghdoot Open Air Theatre at the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

"We have a variety of art forms in South Asia, which promotes people-to-people contact. The festival will try to take a look at everyday issues of women like survival, social repression, gender bias, politics involving lives of women and centuries-old performing traditions like singing, mythology, street plays and even innovative theatre," director of the National School of Drama (NSD) Anuradha Kapur told IANS.

"It is part of our broad plan to partner agencies like ICCR on projects related to popular culture in the SAARC region," she added.

The repertoire, said Kapur, includes a mix of traditional and modern plays, mostly adapted to suit the contemporary theatre idiom.

"Salsal Shahmaama" directed by Afghan woman director Monireh Hashemi and performed by Kabul-based Simorgh Film Association of Culture and Art is a comment on the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha told through the lives of two sisters, Gol Bakht and Nig Bakth. It will be staged March 13.

An Urdu play from Pakistan "Jang Ab Nahin Hogi" (There will be no more wars), an adaptation of Aristophane's 5th century play 'Lysistrata', directed by Sheema Kermani, is a story of two warring tribes -- Khaebani and Phool Machhi -- who cannot hammer out an internecine truce. Fed up with the regime of violence and patriarchy, the women decide to take control of affairs.

The play will be staged by Tehrik-e-Niswan March 11.

Other plays to be staged at the festival are "Nati Bonodini" (India), "Colombo Colombo: The Story of Your Coffin" (Sri Lanka), "Sakubai" (India), "Putaliko Ghar" (Nepal), "Dhonhiyala- Alifulhu: A Love story" (the Maldives), "Nagamandala" (India), "Draupadi" (India), "Thus Spake Shoorpanakha, So Said Shakuni" (India), "Behular Bhasan" (Bangladesh), "Sonata" (India) and "Galem gi Lu" (Bhutan).

Professor, Ford Foundation Chair (Bangladesh Studies Programme and Academy of Third World Studies) at Jamia Millia Islamia, Veena Sikri said: "The festival is an extension of the 'Conference of Women in South Asia: Partners in Development' held at the university in 2009."

"We had formed seven South Asian women's networks in micro-credit, education, health, environment, peacemaking, crafts, textiles, art and literature last year at the conclave.

"The arts and literature group had proposed the festival last year. This festival will be a platform to exchange experiences and empower women in the subcontinent," Sikri told IANS.

Earlier, the NSD had organised a East and Southeast Asian women's theatre festival, Purva, in 2003.

"It was a larger canvas, but this time we decided to confine the focus to South Asia. A play by women on Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan makes a huge political statement," Kirti Jain of National School of Drama told IANS.

(News published under the licence from Indo Asian News Service)

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