Friday, March 17, 2017

Open your mind wide

Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal says that The Vagina Monologues has been written with the purest intention and has succeeded in achieving what it set out to do

Vagina. Say the word aloud. Can you? We tried to ask Mahbanoo Mody-Kotwal if she ever examined her private parts all by herself. We couldn’t twist our tongue to say aloud the word ‘Vagina’, hesitated and left the question incomplete.

“You are asking me a question, but feeling bad to pronounce it. Most educated people know that vagina isn’t a dirty word, they know where it is situated and know the pleasures it can give, the way the penis can give. Of course, everybody has and should examine it,” says Kotwal, who along with her son Kaizaad, has produced and directed the Indian production of the play, The Vagina Monologues.

The play, which will be staged in Pune on Friday, November 11 as a fund raiser by WE Network for the pre-natal care unit of Sassoon Hospital, has originally been written by Eve Ensler in 1996. Ensler interviewed about 200 women on their views on sex, relationships, and violence against women. And, their stories have been performed on stage.

It was in 2003 that the first Indian show of the play was staged. And, since then, it has been running houseful. When asked if any revisions were made to The Vagina Monologues, like focusing on the advertisements endorsing skin lightening cream for the private parts, Kotwal made it abundantly clear that she hasn’t “added or subtracted anything from the play.”

Says she, “Eve Ensler has written this play and has given it to me under the terms and conditions of the copyright and I cannot add or subtract anything from the play. I cannot do that till she gives me the permission or she writes it. So a lot of people tell me to include this or that...to write about marital violence etc. There is marital violence in the play, but in an emotional form. The play covers almost everything, but whatever little has been left out, cannot be put in by us.”

The play, says Kotwal, has been written with purest intent of spreading awareness which it has achieved. “The word ‘vagina’ was considered dirty in India; today people are shouting it out at the shows. It’s just a biological name of a body part, of over half this world’s population. So why should we be ashamed to say this word? It’s perfectly decent word like ‘yoni’. I mean, it’s not a derogatory word like ‘chut’. Unfortunately, most people in India use the dirty words and that’s the sad part about it,” adds she.

A show meant for women and men both, it’s the reaction from the latter that spikes our curiosity. How would men react to what’s happening on the stage and the thought process in the mind of their spouse/friend sitting next to them?

“Most men in the audience come up to us to speak after the show is over. They open up about facts like how their mothers were abused by their fathers. In fact, one man recently wrote in our book, “The MCP in me died this evening’,” says Kotwal. That’s what the play on Friday evening, for which Sakal Times is the media partner, should be doing — open our minds.

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