Mourn­ers’ tale ex­plores caste sys­tem

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By TARANNUM SHAIKH

Beg­ging on the streets al­ready seems like a hard­hit­ting and emo­tion­ally drain­ing task. But would some­one go as far as cry­ing for a liv­ing?

That is the ques­tion In­dian theatre com­pany Prayas will be ask­ing of its au­di­ences as it brings back In­dian play Ru­dali – The Mourner for a sec­ond sea­son.

Sanichari, played by Pa­tri­cia Vich­mann, is a woman liv­ing with her mother-in­law, son, daugh­ter-in-law and young grand­son.

When life’s tragedies get the bet­ter of her, she turns to the pro­fes­sion of fu­neral mourner.

Those in higher class fam­i­lies hire lower class women as pro­fes­sional mourn­ers, known as ru­dali, to cry at the fu­ner­als of their loved ones.

Co-di­rec­tor of the play, Kings­land res­i­dent Ahi Karuna­ha­ran says it ex­plores the caste sys­tem and the so­cial dy­nam­ics sur­round­ing those women.

‘‘Ru­dali is a play that ex­plores the role of women in ru­ral In­dia. It high­lights a lot of the big­ger so­cial is­sues about grief and poverty by look­ing at the role of women, role of a mother, daugh­ter and all that kind of stuff.’’

Anya Ban­er­jee is re­turn­ing to play the role of Sanichari’s daugh­ter-in-law Par­ba­tia.

‘‘It ex­plores a lot of the in­tri­ca­cies of op­pres­sion and the dif­fer­ent dy­nam­ics in which it can work with dif­fer­ent women of dif­fer­ent ages.

‘‘In this kind of so­ci­ety it can do things to peo­ple that for us in our po­si­tion might seem in­hu­mane, but for them can be the only route and the only way out.’’

While the play has some dark themes the cast and crew must be cau­tious not to show the In­dian com­mu­nity in a bad light.

That’s some­thing that Mr Karuna­ha­ran and his codi­rec­tor en­sured they did not com­pro­mise on.

‘‘There’s rit­u­als and cus­toms that they’re not go­ing to un­der­stand but that’s the magic for them to try and fig­ure it out rather than us try­ing to sim­plify things,’’ he says.

The Edge events cen­tre pro­gram­ming man­ager Craig Cooper says the show fits in with the Her­ald Theatre’s con­tem­po­rary pro­gramme.

‘‘From a western per­spec­tive it’s quite un­fa­mil­iar and it’s fas­ci­nat­ing. It’s such a fun­da­men­tal hu­man thing, the griev­ing process. What does it mean when you have to pay some­body to do that?’’ Mr Cooper says.

‘‘That’s what’s so in­ter­est­ing about it, you’re be­ing in­tro­duced to a part of the cul­ture that you’re com­pletely un­fa­mil­iar with. It’s a unique story and it was an ob­vi­ous choice.’’

While the play has dark un­der­tones, Sri-Lankan born Mr Karuna­ha­ran says peo­ple should not be dis­cour­aged by its heavy themes and says the play is ac­tu­ally hu­mor­ous.

‘‘Peo­ple think Ru­dali is all about grief and mourn­ing and they think it’s go­ing to be a re­ally se­ri­ous play. Yes, it talks about the re­ally hard is­sues that we need to talk about, but it’s told in such an en­ter­tain­ing, ac­ces­si­ble and beau­ti­ful way.’’

Dark and hu­mor­ous: Ru­dali – The Mourner is be­ing per­formed by In­dian theatre com­pany Prayas.

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