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Lushin Dubey's 'Untitled', A Triumph For AASRA, Shakti And Women Everywhere

Chitra Parayath

AASRA, the area woman’s group offering support and aid to South Asian women in distress, added a feather to its cap by co-sponsoring with Shakti, a superb theatrical program, ‘Untitled’ by the well-known theater personality from India, Ms. Lushin Dubey.

About 125 people, who braved the damp weather and cool temperatures for a chance to support the two organizations and to watch Ms. Dubey play, attended the event, which was held at the Marlboro Middle School on Sunday, June 1. Some had driven all the way from Connecticut to watch the presentation.

The President of AASRA, Ms. Radha Jalan who thanked the attendees and Ms. Dubey in her welcome address, kicked off the event with a welcome speech. Ms Neelu Sharma, co-founder of the woman’s group Shakti addressed the audience next.

Indicating that women’s issues were dear to her heart, Ms. Dubey went on to introduce herself and her play to the audience. Having been involved in theater since she was in Grade four, Lushin went on to train with Barry John in New Delhi, later starting a Youth Theatre Group 'Kids World' with her cousin, Bubbles Sabharwal. The two have produced, scripted and directed many plays, establishing Kids World as a pioneer in youth, theatre group in India. Ms. Dubey was also involved in Shakespearean productions, contemporizing some to reflect present day mores.

Arvind Gaur who heads the New Delhi-based theatre group Asmita directed the play, a completely experimental venture, a solo performance by Ms. Dubey. Untitled is based loosely on Dario Fos play on Medea and Vijay Dan Deetha’s Nyari Nyari Maryada.

Dressed in a stark black salwar and a long dupatta, the actor’s presence on stage is magnetic; eyes tend to be glued to her slender form as she moves across the stage restlessly.

Her props are simple, there are five wooden frames placed strategically, they look like portals to different worlds. On each hangs a hand puppet, the female puppets are colorful, and one has a long flowing robe. The male puppets are dominant in their size, turbaned but bereft of facial features, just a nose and a mouth.

She begins with an electrifying dance to drums, peaking in a crescendo where she turns around and assuming the role of Medea’s old maid, replete with a mask, talks of the plight of the abandoned wife whose husband Jason has left her for a younger woman. Soon she has changed roles and is right on the mark as the swaggering, womanizing Bahratji, the court poet who entertains the king with his wit, wisdom and advice. From the old stooped woman to the macho young poet, the transformation is seamless, the actor seems to grow and diminish in size as the roles demand and Ms. Dubey’s performance can only be called electrifying.

In the course of ninety five minutes, she gives voice to twelve characters, the lascivious king, replete with facial tics and mannerisms, his helpless wife, the queen, who ultimately finds a lover in her riding teacher, the sweeper woman, who breaks her silence about the priest who has ritually abused her since childhood when he begins to rape her young daughter, a young victim only eleven, uncomprehendingly asking the rapist why uncle chaacha was showering attention on her…Ms. Dubeys range seems endless. Evoking chills, laughter, incredulity, one-handedly, this actor gives one a taste of what great Theater is all about.

Theater is a wonderful vehicle for introducing difficult, complicated subjects that have tremendous relevance in everyday life. In addition to its entertainment value, it also has a way of opening the mind to a variety of points of view and life experiences. In a darkened auditorium, people are more likely to allow their emotions free reign. Enabling people to laugh and cry among strangers, drama connects an audience in ways that lectures and even films seldom do.

The play ended with the audience rising to their feet to applaud the effort. A panel discussion on the play followed with each panelist addressing the impact pf the play with some questions from the audience being answered by Ms. Dubey and the director of the play Mr. Arvind Gaur.

The panelists, Dr. Saroj Joshi of AASRA, Ms. Parminder Bachu of Shakti and Ms. Helen Theodosiou expressed their joy at the presentation with Ms. Bachu commenting that she found the silences in the play as eloquent as the spoken words. She also spoke about the different interpretations of the story of Medea. Ms. Theodosiou, who is of Greek descent said that such perceptions of male superiority existed even in today’s Greece as she watched the play about her ancestors. Double standards are still prevalent in societies around the world and it is more oppressive for women and colored folks," she said, " more so in South Africa, where I have lived".

Ms. Dubey said that her play is called ‘ Untitled’ because she sought to bring home the point that so many women lack a sense of identity. She also said that the play had no real script, that she and the director constantly change it, add to it, subtract from it and bake it afresh for every performance.

Mr. Gaur said that though the play has been termed feminist by some, it was far from being feminist, preferring instead to call it a reflection of society’s many ills. “It is easy,” said he, “to make plays that are feminist in theme but to make one with a theme, a theme of a social malady of this magnitude, that is relevant all over the world, be it USA, Afghanistan or Kerala is the challenge that we took on.”

Some members of the audience asked why the queen found her voice and courage after being unfaithful to her husband, who seemed to punish his infidelity with her own. Ms. Dubey explained that the idea was to portray the desires that women also feel, both physical and spiritual. When a woman has lost her sense of worth, when she feels unloved and unhappy, she has to take her life into her own hands, she said. The queen’s unhappiness when she confronts the court with her infidelity, and her relationship with the sais are intense feelings that are eminently human, she added. Symbolism did allow the audience room to interpret but Ms. Dubey iterated the fact that all of us have a right to feel worthy, to seek happiness and to feel and embrace desire. When one astute member of the audience mentioned the fact the social power misused by the king, the priest and other men in the play was the ploy used also by the queen when she seduces the young sais, the interpretation seemed to intrigue both Ms. Dubey and the director Mr. Gaur.

Bemoaning the fact that the rest of Boston had missed this opportunity to watch this great performance, one member of the audience applauded the two organizations Asara and Shakti and the men folk who had come to attend the show.

Ms. Archana Singhal of AASRA concluded the event by expressing her gratitude to the attendees as well as the artist herself.

AASRA is a non-profit organization. AASRA’s mission is to support and serve as a resource agency for women and families of the Asian American community in New England area. AASRA provides opportunities for women to come together, network and share ideas. The recently opened AASRA Center provides assistance to South Asian women in the areas of health, immigration and domestic crisis and is a comforting and supportive walk-in facility for women. Located at 54 Cummings Park, Suite 316, Woburn, MA 01801, the center is open every Sunday from 1pm to 4 pm.

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Arvind Gaur and Lushin Dubey

Lushin and Rajaji

Panelists (L-R) Parminder Bachu, Saroj Joshi, Helen Theodosiou and Lushin Dubey

Lushin and Rajaji

Lushin and Barahatji

Lushin takes a bow

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