Action centred around the 'Kitchen'

Action centred around the 'Kitchen'

Action centred around the 'Kitchen'

A flier in mustard yellow showing a woman sitting atop a pile of vegetables, is handed to the audience members followed by a pattal (a plate made of dry leaves), as they near the open lawn inside National School of Drama. The finale production for the Graduate Show 2013 looks promising and commands attention right from the beginning.

With a stage built up in the form of an open house, there were hardly any seat preferences to witness the performance titled Kitchen in the Corner of the House.

To complete the house setup, family members enter holding a huge kadahi (wok) and place it in centre of the performance area, which becomes the ‘Kitchen’. The rest of the action revolves around it as womenfolk chop vegetables, knead dough, sieve grains and indulge in cooking affairs throughout the play which ends with the cooked dish being offered to the audience.

While the mother and daughters-in-law of the house befit their parts in the patriarchal household, the males are too given a voice. Unlike the original script penned by distinguished author and activist, C S Lakshmi (Ambai), the play designed and directed by Malavika Priyadarshini Rao gives space to male characters as well.

There are monologues which narrate the unending saga of a female engaged in kitchen chores, and dialogues which reinforce the male chauvinism by not encouraging the son to become a cook. Apart from these themes, the issue of children abandoning their parents is also dealt with in a peripheral manner. In addition, the issue of early marriage is brought forth with a comical angle by the grandmother or Badi Jiji (played by Bhasha Sumbli). With her sharp punches and contemporary item songs (such as Kuanma doob jaun ni from Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3) she ensures laughter!

She is, however, silenced by her son in a specific scene, which is symbolic of the shift in power in the household. Her son, Papa Ji, also comes across as a hysterical character and makes life worse for his wife (Jiji for the housemates). It is through the
character of Jiji (played by Purnima Yengkokpam) that the unbearable pain of struggle in a women’s life is brought forth.

Repetition of phrases such as “Shabash! Bahut achcha kaam karti ho tum” and “Mujhe pahaad dekhne hain” reflect the subdued desires in women to explore the world outside the ‘kitchen’ where they are made to work to keep up the reputation of the male of the house!

With nine dedicated spaces for the actors, the director attempts a magnanimous task and yet remains detached from realism. The audience though does catch whiffs of chillies and other spices (which makes them cough and sneeze) when they are sprinkled into the food being cooked o stage. The bad acoustics marred what is otherwise a fine effort in stagecraft, since a lot of dialogues remain inaudible.