Birjees Qadar Ka Kunba

Direction : Vinay Varma
Cast : Vaishali Bisht, Pallavi Varma, Aditi Sharma, Babli Yadav, Shree Tarke, Sruthi Nori, Rita Ghosh, Rachna Gupta, Deepti Girotra, Asha Singh


Parul Rana


Originally written as LA CASA DE BERNADA ALBA by the Spanish dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca in the 1930s, the play was translated in English as THE HOUSE OF BERNADA ALBA. BIRJEES QADAR KA KUNBA is the present translation done by Raghuvir Sahay in Urdu. Directed by Vinay Varma, featuring an all-female cast, the play very much revolves around women of Birjees Qadar's house.

The stage opens establishing the death of Birjees Qadar's husband, she now is the matriarch of the house, left with her five daughters. The first act begins with the housemaids doing daily house chores along with revealing information about the Birjees family. Immediately, the domineering Birjees declares a long term mourning for her five daughters (Fehmida, Aadila, Aamila, Kudsiya, Mushtari), restricting their movement out of the house, restraining them from wearing fancy clothing or applying makeup, and to have no contacts with anyone outside the house. The play begins to unfold the position of women in society, the deprivation of social and sexual freedom, and eventually the frustration and rivalry within this all-female household.

The theme also stresses how extreme importance is laid on family reputation; women are expected to live a life within the pre-established boundaries, and how under such circumstances women are often deprived of the enjoyment of the basic human feelings and the rebel against their desires being suppressed. There are also frequent mentions on how the men in our society are put on a pedestal whereas women are left to struggle and compensate for their needs and desires and must be good looking in order to have some worth.

As the story proceeds, it reveals several layers of human behavior, how these sisters turn against each other, eventually leading to rivalry and betrayal. The struggle to set oneself free from these restraints seems never-ending for these siblings. The character of Birjees's mother (played by Asha Singh) portrays a fragile state of mind showing the results of having to lead a life in a repressive society and suppressing one's desires. It also indicates that there has been no concrete change in the life of women over the years. Even though the play is set in an Islamic household, where these women are leading a life under the influence of specific culture and traditions, yet the theme is universal and holds true for any society. These issues are still prevalent and represent the situation of many other women in India to date.

Sahitya Academi Winner Raghuvir Sahay has carefully blended the original theme of sexual and social suppression of women from the Spanish play set up in the 1930s to an Islamic household. The dialogues are beautifully written in Urdu and Hindi and succeed in setting the correct atmosphere. The use of an actual verandah ground instead of a stage in an auditorium adds to the mood and helps in giving the audience near to a real-life experience. The use of light is very minimal, adds to the realistic setup. The background score in the opening scene tends to overlap the dialogues, which makes it difficult to follow what the actors are talking about. Other than that, there is a minimum and well-balanced use of music throughout the show.

The entry and exit of the cast are well balanced and are done with a lot of ease. There is minimal use of props, costumes are kept subtle, all of which draws the attention of the audience towards the actors and the storyline. The cast has managed to pull decent performances and keeps the audience hooked till the end. Vaishali Bisht as Birjees Qadar gives a nuanced performance keeping her authoritarian self intact throughout the show. Her body language, movement across the stage are strong and apt to establish a presence of dominance among others. Deepti Girotra and Shree Tarke as the housemaid and her daughter are fun to watch and add humor to an otherwise serious play.

Babli Yadav as Aadila exhibited the yearning for freedom to lead her own life, to rebel, to have the passion to want and achieve something.

The play promises to showcase the different layers of relationships within the family, delivers social messages wrapped with subtle humor, tragedy, and much more.

*Parul Rana is a theatre enthusiast and movie buff.

(This play was viewed online)

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