Direction : Shili Sathyu
Writer : Mahashweta Devi
Cast : Sharvari Deshpande, Hetal Varia, Navyata Malkani, Siddharth Jhaveri, Subodh Surve, John Soans, Akash Dube, Harshad Tambe, Ishita Dave, Mithila Lad, Ronak Kitta


Deepa Punjani

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Gillo Gilheri's KYUN KYUN LADKI, directed by Shaili Sathyu, and based on Mahasweta Devi's pictorial story Why- Why Girl, introduces city bred children to a culture that is largely unknown to them. This is perhaps what the play does best. The children get to know Moyna, a tribal girl, who in spite of her hardships, is full of curiosity and has a zest for life. Along with Moyna, they also get to know other children in the play such as Aamna, who has lost her mother and Gaurav, who decides to stay back in the village with his nana and attend school there instead of returning to the city. But it is around Moyna that the story revolves and of how she is encouraged by her samiti school teacher to read and study.

Moyna's life has interesting things to reveal to urban children. She catches snakes and even eats them. She tends to goats and has to work through the day for a livelihood. She and her family are at the mercy of landowners, but Moyna, the ever curious girl questions everything, including the status quo. Moyna's questions such as why she has to eat the left-over food of the landlord, or why she has to walk far to fetch water paint a bleak reality even as the play takes on a very positive and a happy tone. Moyna's questions are real and heart-breaking. But her curiosity has endeared her to her teacher, and Moyna, we are shown, is ultimately happy and presumably empowered with her knowledge.

Shaili Sathyu uses a lot of movement, and has her actors transform themselves into animals and objects speedily and convincingly enough as need be. The stage design is bare but has a very nice backdrop of various animals shaped from thin wire and which are suspended. The wild, open nature is Moyna's natural environment, and this is another aspect that the play succeeds in highlighting.

The actors do well, and the song, Kitabein Karti Hai Baatein, based on Safdar Hashmi's poem, has a touching quality about it. However the play tends to drag in parts, and sometimes comes across like a lesson, well-intended as it is. Its greatest quality though is to illuminate the context in which the Moynas of India live. Our old and young audiences alike can be more sensitized to the hard and often gruesome reality simmering beneath the happy go lucky tone of the story; a reality that its writer has intended for us to reflect on, and not just consume.

*Deepa Punjani is Editor of this website.

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