Lakshya, the theatre society of Kamala Nehru College, was recently disqualified in the Mahavidyalaya Natya Samaroh organised by the Sahitya Kala Parishad. Lakshya’s annual theatre production, “Shahira Ke Naam”, is a play that revolves around college girls who live their life to the fullest. Naturally, the play involved a few simple words to describe women’s underwear. At the end of their performance, an announcement was made to inform the participants that morality must be maintained in the plays. It was after this that the society was informed that they were disqualified.
The students wondered if the disqualification was because they had used a few swear words. However, other teams had used many more vulgar words. Eventually, they were told that it was because of their use of words such as “bra” and “panty” that they had been disqualified. The Sahitya Kala Parishad stated that such words were acceptable in a girls’ college, but not for a public performance viewed by families. The problem with this is that there were a few other plays which also used questionable language, which was arguably more offensive – misogynistic and casteist.
Such backlash for merely mentioning women’s underwear was called out by the students of the society as well as their convenor. Soon, the news began to spread and theatre societies of other colleges, as well as the general student community shared their own views in support of the Kamala Nehru students. For instance, Rangayan, the dramatics society of Atma Ram Sanatan Dharma College said that “creating havoc out of the usage of these terms and their portrayal is archaic and abnormal”. Dilgrace Kaur, Vice President of Lakshya stated that the Sahitya Kala Parishad had come under fire before for similar reasons.
When the news reached the organisers, they claimed that the society was not disqualified, but would only lose marks for offensive language. Monami Basu, the teacher convener of the society said she received a call from Kapil Mishra, the Minister of Water, Tourism, Art, Culture and Gurudwara Election. He said he would ask the Sahitya Kala Parishad to neither disqualify nor deduct marks for the performance.
On 31 January, members of Pinjra Tod protested against the misogynistic decision off the Sahitya Kala Parishad. They hung bras in the Shri Ram Centre, where the performance had taken place. Somaya Gupta, one of the protesters, said that “it’s high time that people start normalising things such as women’s undergarments” and that the protest was not “just about the disqualification, but about prohibiting conversation even in a cultural space”.
It remains to be seen what the Sahitya Kala Parishad and other conservative organisations will take from the students’ attempts to fight this misogyny. As Monami Basu said, “If it titillates you, it is your problem. We reject your pretentious hypocritical propriety.”
Image Credits: The Hindu