Posts Tagged Domestic violence

Thappad Movie Review


Thappad begins with the routine family life of Amrita (Taapsee Pannu) a happily married housewife and her husband, Vikran (Pavail Gulati).  Vikram works in a reputed company and is aggressively focused on climbing the corporate ladder that will ultimately take him to London, as the head honcho. Amrita is aware of how much his career means to Vikram, and is fully focused on supporting her husband. Her life revolves around looking for his comfort and attending to his mother, Sulochana (Tanvi Azmi)

 

Vikarm is elated when he is selected for the desired role and throws a celebration party to his friends. During the celebration, he gets the news that another white man is deemed more appropriate and Vikram would be reporting to him. Vikram has a heated argument with one of his superiors Rajhans, who was attending the party. When Amrita comes in the middle and tries to stop him for escalating the argument, Vikram’s anger turns on her and he slaps her. This thappad begins a chain of events and forms the core theme of the movie.

Image result for thappad

This movie is a MeToo moment for me and is personal for me in several ways, although for me, it wasn’t the first thappad and lack of apology. But after I let go of the first thappad after tearful apologies, the apologies became less frequent and genuine and then disappeared, and thappads became more routine. In a changing India, Amrita refuses to brush off this single incident of violence and public humiliation. When she questions her life choices and finally her marriage, Vikran propelled by anger and bad advice, transforms a no contest, mutual consent divorce into a full blown court battle. That was another MeToo moment for me and a reminder of the time when my appeal for mediation was thrown out and the accusations and fake accusations were launched, casting me as an abuser and mentally unstable.  It is easy to be charming in public and in periods of happiness, but as a society and in family units, we need to ask a question, how do people react under stress and outside of the public eye, and do women get to bear the brunt of family stress and do they lose their right to be happy, one smile at a time?

 

The movie does not make light of a thappad, nor does it make a thappad bigger than what it is. Instead, what the film does is to serve as a thoughtful reminder that abuse should not be an acceptable aspect in a relationship and love, respect and happiness are closely tied together. Amrita says, मुझे वहां रहना नथी जहाँ पे मेरी वेल्यू न हो and she says, “I want to be happy and when I say, I am happy, I don’t want to look unreal”.  Even while making a compelling case for a woman’s right to genuine happiness, the movie does not downgrade into men bashing thoughtlessness. And even when the movie focuses on happiness which would be at a higher level in Maslows’s hierarchy of needs, the film does not fail to show the struggles of women like Amrita’s maid, who are battling domestic violence at home on a daily basis, while working in low level jobs.

 

What is working so beautifully in the movie is that the dialogs are natural and low key.  Huge kudos to Director Anubhav Sinha and co script writers Sinha and Mrunmayee Lagoo to not just stir up passions but make this a strongly worded film of significanceTapsee Pannu is fabulous in conveying the impact of her experience and her dilemma without getting acrimonious, loud or overbearing. Her restrained acting with impactful dialogs serves as moments of reckoning about the assumptions and expectations surrounding women’s roles in Indian society. The entire cast including Kumud Sharma (Amrita’s adoring father), Pavil Gulati (Vikram), Ratna Pathak Shah (Amrita’s mother), Tanvi Azmi (Amrita’s mother in law), Maya Sarao (Amrita’s lawyer) and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan (Amrita’s maid) show the restraint and deliver a powerful film. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being perfect), I rate the film as 4.9.

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Chaos Theory – Play Review


Clever, funny, and intelligent, “Chaos Theory” is a story of love and literature, yes also love of literature, which brings two people together, over and over again.  Unsure of their love for each other but more certain of their supremacy in literature, Mukesh (Puneet) and Sunita’s (Vinita Sud Belani) lives intersect constantly.  Written by Anuvab Pal, an Indian stand-up comedian, the story begins in India, and ends several decades later in New York.  

My feeling is that I might have loved this play, with better acoustics and delivery.  Unfortunately, I missed large parts of the dialogues because the Cubberly Theater acoustics left much to be desired! The actors who spoke loudly and enuciated clearly were, for the most part, easy to understand. Unfortunately, several actors spoke too fast, and did not enunciate clearly enough to overcome the poor acoustics.  Unable to fully grasp the dialogues and beautiful quotations from literature, and yet hearing mention of Byron, Shakespeare etc., only built up my frustration and severely impacted my enjoyment of the play.  I asked the audience members around my seat (which was towards the corner), and they agreed they were having trouble understanding what was being said.   My friend who accompanied me was so frustrated at missing significant chunks of the dialogues, and hearing the some laughter at lines we could not at all make out, that she told me if she had not had to stay on account of me, she would have left during intermission, which neither of us ever does.  Despite missing large parts of the dialogues, I am sharing some information below.

Against the backdrop of significant events and dates artfully portrayed in the background, the story takes audience on an emotional journey of Mukesh and Sunita’s relationship.  Mukesh is cynical, cocky, well read, denies his feelings, and lives in the world of ideas and thoughts.  Sunita is witty, funny,  well read, also denies her feelings, but lives on the edge straddling thoughts and feelings.  While they both deny their strong attraction towards each other or their ego stops them from declaring their feelings towards each other, their paths cross frequently, even as they forge other attachments.

While they do not approach their inner world of feelings with candor, and do not acknowledge their mutual attraction, Mukesh and Sunita find solace and comfort, by engaging in witty repartee and quoting pieces from literature.   At one point, they quote Byron, “In secret we met — in silence I grieve, That thy heart could forget, Thy spirit deceive.  If I should meet thee After long years, How should I greet thee? — With silence and tears” (I googled to get the entire quote, since I heard only parts of this quote).

Mukesh and Sunita end up as professors, with Sunita more concerned with what is taught, rather than how, and Mukesh more focused upon the process of teaching and learning.  I caught interesting bits and pieces of their dialogues.  Later, Sunita expresses her frustration of “living between two cultures” even as they both refuse to acknowledge that real frustration is caused from living in the in-between zone of an easy lie that they are “just” friends, and the uncomfortable truth that they deeply care for and even love each other.  

Director and lead actress, Vinita Sud Belani is also the founding Artistic Director of EnActe Arts, and is devoted to bringing quality South Asian theatre to mainstream audiences.  Additionally, En Acte Arts supports and champions worthy causes of importance to the community.  A portion of the proceeds from all shows of “Chaos Theory” are donated to Maitri, Bay Area’s non-profit organization that serves the survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, primarily in the South Asian community.  

Media Designer, David Murakami did a fine job with video projected information in the background, which helped to orient the audience members, as the story jumps around.  The set design by Reshma Dave and props by Vishalini Vimal and Geeta Rai were excellent.  When we could hear clearly, we were impressed with much of the acting.  En Acte Arts is a theater with a heart, and I hope audiences will continue to support the theater and the various causes it champions.

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“Exit, Pursued by a Bear” — Play Review


“Honey, you’ve been recast”.  In “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” award winning playwright Lauren Gunderson brings to life an abuser’s worst nightmare, where the tables are turned and the victim holds the power.  In this raucous comedy dealing with a serious topic, Nan (Sara Renee Morris), a victim of domestic violence, finds a perfect opportunity to exact feminist revenge from Kyle (Max Sorg).  Most survivors of domestic abuse could identify with the plot or may even have had secret desire for revenge.

Nan says, “he is awful and I wish he were dead”.  She is getting help from her gay friend Simon (Jacob Marker) who is acting as her emotional and actual cheerleader and a stripper named Sweetheart (Laura Espino) who seems to harbor a hope for landing an acting job and finds this role very exciting.  As Nan reminisces about her life with Kyle, she reenacts scenes from their marriage, with Sweetheart playing the role of Kyle, so Kyle and the audience can see how horrible he had been to her.  This happens under Sweetheart’s direction and some clarification regarding the plot appears on the screen above the stage, from time to time.

Nan is pregnant and she sees the opportunity to not only rid herself of Kyle but work towards repopulating the world with “gentlemanly, feminist boys”.  Kyle makes feeble attempts at protest against Nan’s version of events.  In Kyle’s version, they are best friends and he occasionally loses his temper because that is what men sometimes do and he promises to fix things.  It seems Nan is getting sucked into the rhetoric and then she is pulled back by her friends who insist that she stand her ground and stick to the plan.  The plan is to leave Kyle tied to a chair, way out in a country cabin, smothered in honey, and surrounded by slabs of meat, to be pursued and consumed by a bear!

Gunderson’s “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” beautifully depicts the absurdity of violence in the context of a relationship built on assumption of deepest level of care and concern.  Possibility of redemption of the abuser and hopes of freedom by the victim, makes the relationship appear as absurd to an outsider, as the couple living it may want to give it meaningfulness and purpose.  This reality of an abusive relationship is delivered through humor and nonstop fun, where Sweetheart and Simon play a crucial role.   Hilariously funny and unabashedly overenthusiastic Laura Espino is the life of the party, the engine that drives the plan forward, when it seems to be staggering.  Director Steve Boyle has done a fabulous job in maintaining just the right tone and keeping it humorous while keeping it real, with regard to the seriousness of the subject.  

“Exit, Pursued by A Bear” will be running at City Lights Theater in San Jose, till June 14, 2015.  Don’t miss this play.  Tickets can be purchased at www.cltc.org .

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Poem – Let me count the innumerable ways


I first had an opportunity to hear Dr ‪#‎MayaAngelou‬ speak at my Alma Mater, University of Cincinnati, oh so many years ago. To date, I cannot forget her words, how she said them, her style, her confidence, her humor, the depth of her character. She inspired me, like countless others & I carried the lessons throughout my life, as I got better & better acquainted with her. Here is a poem I had written, taking off from her poem “I am a phenomenal woman” – http://bit.ly/WNL1Fs RIP Dr. Angelou – you will never cease to be an inspiration!  (poem below was written in response to domestic abuse – based on Maya Angelou’s poem and her inspiration.  This poem is dedicated to the brave women who overcame and prevailed and whose stories I heard when I served on the board of a support network.)

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I will rise.
I will rise, and rise, and rise again.

I will learn from the resilience of our kids.
I will weep on the shoulders of my friends.
Their hugs instill new energy into me.
I will count on my family.

I will go to school, take classes and learn.
I will find mentors and learn to earn
I will earn well and provide
My children will live with dignity and pride

I will use the system when it can help me
And know when to let it be
I will know not to rely entirely on the system
When I stop falling apart, and am not a whining victim

System then can’t distinguish between abused and the abuser
As I get stronger, challenges will become harder
I will learn to deal with cyber threats
Slander, lies, cyber stalking, and other pranks

Cyber, financial, legal, domestic, I will learn to recognize
Various forms of control and abuse.
I will rise and learn to love and trust
Love ensconced amidst dignity and respect

I will speak up
Against war, violence, and disrespect
Your ways are finite
Let me count the innumerable ways, I might

Rise. And rise, and rise again.
For, I am a phenomenal woman.

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Poem – Let me count the ways


(on domestic abuse – I served on the board and heard all sorts of stories of abuse)

First I will claim to love you
You are mine and I know what is good for you
I am not difficult to please
In fact, sometimes I am very easy to please
Sometimes I am difficult
Well, I am unpredictable
But you should understand me I have had difficult childhood
And you are difficult sometimes
Well often it is you, not me.
Sometimes I get upset, little too upset
When you nag and annoy me.
DON’T EVER run to your friends to show them the bruise
I forgive you.
I bring you flowers when you get upset.
I bring you flowers when I get upset.
That is what a relationship is
To forgive and stick together, no matter what.
I have told you that over and over
Marriage is sacred.
Nothing and no one should come between us.

Abuse: power & control behaviours

Abuse: power & control behaviours (Photo credit: moggs oceanlane)

You are leaving me? You are leaving me?
You DOLT, if only you knew what’s good for you.
You are messed up, incapable, ignorant, stupid
And now you will ruin the children
My precious little children
We are not done, because when you leave I will keep you entangled in legal nightmare
Let me see how you navigate the system
And if you don’t know what financial abuse means
Now you will learn all about it
First, I will file numerous motions I will claim everything to be mine
Then I will claim what is yours to be mine
I protected you and took care of you
You were safe with me
But your brain is messed up with Thoughts of independence and freedom
See how much freedom there is

In the world of technology I can monitor your every move
By hacking into your emails
By writing rubbish in your name I can use your information To slander, malign, and ruin you
You DOLT, you think you can ever leave me?

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