Making waves: ‘Matsyagandhi’ is about the travails of the fishing community.
Of marginalised lives
P.K. AJITH KUMAR
‘Matsyagandhi,’ a one-woman play scripted and directed by Sajitha, was staged in Kozhikode.
Carrying a lamp in her hands, she steps down from the stage. Her face, framed by her long, thick tresses, looks radiant. As she walks into the midst of the spectators inside a packed Town Hall in Kozhikode, and into darkness, she is applauded loudly.
It was a memorable homecoming for M. Sajitha who staged ‘Matsyagandhi,’ a one-woman play she has scripted and directed. She couldn’t have hoped for a better venue than her own hometown for the play’s premier in Kerala.
‘Matsyagandhi’ is about the fishing community; it is about how globalisation has impacted their lives. It is also about how they are marginalised by society and how they are often looked down upon because they smell of fish. The entire play is narrated by a fisherwoman who smells of fish (‘Matsyagandhi’). The play was first staged in South Africa, during the Earth Summit in 2002.
“It was also staged in three South African cities – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria,” says Sajitha, who is working with the Sangeet Natak Akademi. She moved to Thiruvananthapuram from New Delhi recently.
“The play was well received in Delhi, even by the non-Malayali audience, when it was staged a couple of months ago. Theatre is very much alive in Delhi, unlike in Kerala,” she says.
‘Matsyagandhi,’ she says, is not just a play, but a documentation of the lives of fisherwomen as well. “The script is based on my conversations with them. I knew my play had reached out to them when I found a woman weeping at the end of my performance – the play wasn’t complete then and it wasn’t a proper staging as such – on the beach in Veli, Thiruvanthapuram. She was the sister of a fisherwoman who had been raped."
Sajitha says though she has used the bare minimum of props, she has worked hard on the background score.
“Umesh Sudhakar has composed the music and we recorded the real sound of the sea, not any synthetic sound.” And it has worked. Sajitha manages to capture the audience’s attention for about 45 minutes with her performance and the sound and the music.
She became interested in acting when she began to perform in the stage plays produced by Kerala Shastra Sahitya Parishad. “I found that I loved acting, though in my student days I was more into classical dances. Then I realised that the Parishad’s plays were not the kind of plays that I really wanted to act in. I went to Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata to learn acting academically.”
Given an option, she would have loved to devote all her time to theatre. “But you can’t make a living out of theatre, so you are forced to work, and that’s the case with all those involved in theatre in Kerala,” she says. Sajitha has acted in plays for different troupes. “Since I am not attached to any particular company, I do get interesting assignments from different troupes. I enjoyed acting as ‘Mother Courage’ in the Brecht play put on by Abhinaya, Thiruvananthapuram. I also acted in Om Cheri’s ‘Pralayam.’”
Sajitha is currently working on the script of a play based on a Malayali woman living in Delhi.
“It would most probably be another one-actor play, but I have to use a few other voices. So I might as well bring them on to the stage; I have not decided on that,” she says.