BHOOMI Play Review

Deepa Gahlot

Direction : Vinay Kumar
Writer : Original Play 'Bhoomirakshasam' written by Sara Joseph
Cast : Nimmy Raphel, Vinay Kumar, Arvind Rane, Ashiqa Salvan, Meedhu Miriyam & Sooraj

 BHOOMI Review

A stage actress asks the female director of the play they are reheasing, that if she cannot get justice through art, then what's the point?

Adishakti's BHOOMI, adapted by Vinay Kumar from Sara Joseph's BHOOMIRAKSHASAM, perhaps puts too heavy a burden on art, but if a mirror is not shown to a patriarchal society, through works of literature or art, them so many issues that affect women (or other marginalised people), then, what indeed is the point!

In this play within a play, Kamala (Ashiqa Salvan) is directing a mythological production, an episode from the Ramayan, in which Araja, the daughter of Guru Shukracharya was raped by King Danda. In a rage, Araja's father cursed the entire kingdom with death and destruction within seven days; Nobody questioned why innocents should suffer for the crime of their king.

While the actors discuss the physical depiction of the act on stage, Ambika (Nimmy Raphel), the actress playing Araja, reveals that she was raped by a fellow actor. Looking at society's response to women who seek legal action against rape or gender violence, she has very valid reasons for not reportiing the incident, even to other members of the group. The man, when cornered, claims that Ambika invited him to the room and smiled, so the act was consensual, as if being cordial, or even pleasant towords a co-worker is an invitaion to rape. Society often punishes the woman for violence against her, and fiction offers unrealistic or 'acts of nature' kind of solutions.

In reality, it is only after recent episodes like the Nirbhaya or the Shakti Mills rape cases was their adequate outrage in the media, and the #MeToo movement named and shamed men who took advantage of their positions of power to sexually exploit woman. Even if the the conspiracy of silence over crimes against women ends, and there are positive changes in the law, justice, as Ambika, points out, is elusive. Ambika's revelation leads to a creative crisis in Kamala, who, as an artiste, cannot come up with a solution that would have much impact in righting historical wrongs.

However stark the questions it raises, the production is aesthetically pleasing, using song, dance, lovely costumes and a simple but effective set. Araja is bound by traditions of mythology, but Ambika is a courageous woman, who confronts the man every day without flinching, and if justice is not obtainable, then wants to get on with her life with dignity; without letting that one incident define her. For an audience, a satisfactory ending would be punishment for the rapist, but till such time as there is an Utopian gender balance, they have to make do with Ambika's strength and Kamala's artistic soul-searching.

(Deepa Gahlot is a journalist, columnist, author and curator. Some of her writings are on

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