Published: 24th February 2018
Catch Eve Ensler's iconic The Vagina Monologues at Mayfair Convention in Bhubaneshwar
Tanaya Patnaik, the organiser of the play The Vagina Monologues wonders if it’s the name that has Bhubaneswar sitting up and taking notice
When Tanaya Patnaik sought to bring to life Eve Ensler’s iconic play The Vagina Monologues in Bhubaneswar, her excitement meter stood at 100%. And when she opened the floor for auditions for the play, the response was 0%, barring the one person who turned up for it. “Maybe it’s the name?” Patnaik wondered out loud. It was particularly disheartening because she had sought permission from V-Day, the not-for-profit organisation that supplies the script and updates it every year to make sure it resonates with every generation.
But if circumstances could not stop Eve Ensler from writing the monologue, what makes you think anything would stop Patnaik? As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Prachi Agarwal Mahajan, a well-known theatre figure in Bhubaneswar and a friend of Patnaik, assembled an army of six, including herself and Patnaik, to perform this powerful play on February 28 at MAYFAIR Convention in Bhubaneswar.
As women, we need to accept and love ourselves the way we are and not let self-doubt come in the way of anything
Tanaya Patnaik, organiser, The Vagina Monologues
You name it
As part of her initiative Unzip, Patnaik had conducted a special International Women’s Day event last year which drew a very surprising response. Every woman, irrespective of their caste or background, got on stage and talked out loud about things that they would never even utter behind closed doors like sexual violence and more. “The idea was to talk and share because that’s when the healing starts,” says Patnaik, who lives in Cuttack. Performing The Vagina Monologues is just another step in this direction.
Pedalling back to the question which baffled even Shakespeare, ‘What’s in a name?’, we ask Patnaik if it’s the word ‘vagina’ in the name The Vagina Monologues that has people sit up and listen to what they are trying to say, like Bollywood actor Swara Bhaskar, who received a lot of attention because she said she “felt like a vagina” after she watched Padmaavat, in an open letter. “I think people have a short memory. I think people have forgotten about Swara Bhaskar and are now talking about Nirav Modi,” she laughs, but she does agree that when you look at it like that, maybe it is the name, “which takes nothing away from the play itself, which is bold and powerful,” she adds.
The cast of the play include Flora Swain, Gargi Bhattacharya, Dhrubani Mishra, Bineeta Ghoshal, Prachi Agarwal Mahajan, who is also the director, and Patnaik
What’s the scene like?
So eventually, this passionate bunch are giving it their all to present the play, which is as relevant today as it was when it was developed 12 years back. But otherwise, the theatre scene in Odisha’s capital is not too happening. “It’s a matter of whether the egg comes first or the chicken,” says Patnaik, to describe how no one — neither the producers nor the actors — is willing to take the risk and figure it out. But before one asks this perennial question, Patnaik raises another important one, “Where does one perform plays?” The infrastructure itself is dismal, she says. There is the Rabindra Mandap, which is just too big and hotels just too expensive. They were lucky to get MAYFAIR Convention because theirs is are a charitable event, which every official performance needs to be as per the mandate set by V-Day. “Serious plays like this cannot be performed at a hotel. Moreover, they come with the added expenses of providing snacks,” she explains. Though there are a lot of stand-up comedy shows and open mic nights happening in cafés, more support needs to come in on the infrastructure side, she opines.
Play point: The poster of the event
Go on, be offended
In a nation, whose new favourite hobby seems to have become taking offence, Patnaik likes to do so for the thrill of it. “The idea of someone getting offended makes me want to do it. It gives me a high,” she laughs and tells us more seriously that, “Everyone should be given a space to say what they want to say. Also, I sometimes think we underestimate our city,” she says, stating that the phenomenal response to the Unzip International Women’s Day Event conducted last year gives her hope that people do want to talk. And The Vagina Monologues covers a variety of taboo topics that need to be spoken about — from the pain of childbirth, rape, the plight of transgenders and much more. Because like Patnaik said, sharing is the first step towards healing.
For tickets contact 7992712068