First South Asian Women's Festival to kick off on Mar 8

The festival which will stage 14 plays from the member countries of SAARC, is an attempt to "create a dialogue about conflict", which is a common thread that binds all the countries in the region.

The week-long event which is being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, in partnership with the National School of Drama and Jamia Milia University, will see the coming together of theatre groups from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, Maldives and Myanmar.

"Women's issues have gone beyond feminism. This is an attempt to look at women's perspective on core social issues and conflict is one of them. The idea is to use theatre as a medium of creating dialogue and to learn from each other's experiences," said Anuradha Kapur, Director of NSD.

And the festival could not come at a more critical time, as just days ago the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan finally resumed talks for the first time since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

And aptly enough the play from Pakistan, 'Jang Ab Nahi Hogi' by Tehrik-e-Niswan (The Women's Movement) is a call for peace between the two neighbours divided by years of animosity.

But war and peace is not the sole purview of the festival, which will bring to stage a myriad of emotions, be it love and desire or hatred and struggle.

An example is the play 'Nati Binodini' which will the first play to be staged in the festival. Directed by Amal Allana, it revolves around the life of it's namesake, Binodini, a prostitute by birth who became the first women actor to walk the boards of public stage in Calcutta.
And the festival is in no way an attempt to exclude men, with many male actors and directors in participation, say the organisers.

"It is not a man vs woman thing anymore. There is a realisation now that we cannot even talk about development, while neglecting the plight of half of our population. And South Asian women are a force to reckon with, all they need to do is come together," said Veena Sikri, Professor, Jamia Milia University.

The selection of plays was put together through a tedious process, which lasted six months and the result will be for all to see at the festival which will be inaugurated by ICCR Chair Person Karan Singh and theatre veterans Zora Sehgal and H. Sabitri on Mar 8.

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