An experience beyond words

Breaking silence

The reach of theatre seems to be limited to entertainment to a large extent these days. But every once in a while comes a play that transcends the stage and stays with the viewer as an experience.

Directed by Yael Farber and produced by Poorna Jagannathan, ‘Nirbhaya – Breaking The Silence’ is one such play. It was performed at Ranga Shankara recently and was a brutally realistic portrayal of the everyday gender-based violence that women go through and how they
overcome it.

To create the strongest impact possible on stage, the play recreated the incidents of December 16, 2012. From the stained clothes to the bus seats on stage, little was left to the audience’s imagination as they witnessed the brutal incident that forced the creation of Nirbhaya for the world to mourn. Inter-woven into her story was the real-life stories of four other women who bravely re-enacted incidents that changed their lives. With much sensitivity and powerful delivery, they broke their silence and shared their horrifying forced sexual encounters that shattered them, with one even telling the story of being a dowry bride, being burnt alive and having her five-year-old son taken away from her.

Creating a piece of theatre with personal testimonies could not be easy but Yael did it with respect for the survivors and a deep sense of empathy. “It’s when the cost of not breaking your silence is more than the cost of breaking it that you need to claim your narrative and break the myth of keeping quiet about it. Theatre is very subtle but that’s how we’re going to start that revolution,” said the director, adding, “It was like really listening and feeling the audience.”

The thought-provoking production left the audience shocked but grateful to have experienced what they had. In the sharing session after the performance, most of the audience members thanked the cast for revealing such an intimate part of themselves that they had been carrying around for years. “I felt a sense of personal mourning around me. It must have been really difficult to speak about these stories on a stage and I thank them for doing that,” said Vikram, an attendee.

Shalini, another member of the audience, added, “Everybody’s read and heard enough about what happened in New Delhi on December 16 but to see it the way we did was like facing my worst fears. It was the most moving performance I’ve seen though ‘performance’ isn’t the right word as it was an experience. I hope every man and woman gets to experience it and that it helps others break their silence.”
The cast of Nirbhaya included Ankur Vikal, Japjit Kaur, Priyanka Bose, Sapna Bhavnani, Sneha Jawale and Rukshar Kabir.

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