There is moment in the play Interrogations when the audience seemed to stop breathing for one moment, the underlying tension choking its collective spirits. Standing in front of an angry husband, a distraught woman wrings her hands and begs his forgiveness for a crime she did not commit. The futility of the gesture, the injustice of the situation, the inevitable doom facing her are reflected in her eyes.
Interrogations, a play by Karthik Ramakrishnan and Jyothi Thottam, is based on a true incident that occurred in Massachusetts a few years ago. It was staged by SAAth (South Asian American theater) and Harvard's South Asian Association at the Leverett House Old Library at Harvard on November 7, 8 and 9.
While domestic violence affects all cultural, religious, gender, & socioeconomic groups, people of color continue to be largely ignored in domestic violence literature. Here we have a well-crafted play focusing on this very issue, and not resorting to summary judgment or sensationalism. Directed with elegant spareness by John Mathew and Neilesh Bose, Interrogations pulls no punches, throwing light on intimate violence, which remains a most insidious social ill. Rippling quietly and relentlessly throughout the deeply disturbing play is an underlying threat of pain and destruction.
John Mathew as the embittered, abusive Narayan Reddy and Aparna Chennapragada as his, timid, helpless wife Usha Reddy turn in mature performances. The despair in Usha's eyes as she tries to shield the truth about her husband from her daughter and her friends and the quiet rage in Narayan's eyes as he makes one unreasonable demand after another of his wife, were acted out perfectly by Mathews and Chennapragada. Supported by a talented cast the play clearly touched many hearts.
The play conveys, through fragmented narratives, the sad truth that though the family is the main milieu of violence against women, the community plays a critical role in reinforcing unequal structures and processes in the family.
Said Premi John, a theater enthusiast; of the play "I loved the simplicity of the set and the easy transitions from scene to scene. The various time periods were connected and the story brought together in a manner that consistently held the viewers interest."
The actors and directors were greeted with much applause and praise after the completion of the play.
A discussion on the issue of Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities followed the show on November 7 with Reema Kalra of the Asian Task Force against Domestic Violence and Radha Jalan of AASRA as facilitators. They commented on the scope of interventions of community based groups and talked about working to reduce violence by men and the underlying influence of patriarchal power structures.
More than any other place in modern society, and contrary to popular
mythology, the home is the most dangerous location for an individual, as is obvious
from statistics on domestic violence. As Anthony Giddens writes: 'A person of
any age or of either sex is far more likely to be the subject of physical
attack at home than on the street.' Interrogations portrays this chilling reality.
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John Mathew as Narayan Reddy
Aparna Chennapragada - as Usha Reddy
Chikako Sassa - as Susie
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