I am Not Here is inspired by Gurdeep Kaur Bhatti’s ‘Behzti’ and Joanna Russ’s ‘How to Suppress Women’s Writing’
Directed by Deepika Arwind ¦ Produced by The Lost Post Initiative, Bengaluru
Language: English, Kannada, Hindi ¦ Duration: 70 minutes ¦ Suitable for 13 years and older
‘I am not here’, is conceived as an 8-step guide in how to censor women’s writing.
While looking for plays that had been banned at some point in history, we were unable to find texts by women playwrights, barring a few. The reason was obvious: there are far less women playwrights, but also that the idea of ‘censorship’ in this case needed to be expanded. Outside of the purview of official censorship, lay a history of women writers being pushed to the fringes and never accorded the status of folk-heroes or rebels, qualities that male writers were often revered for.
It began with investigating ‘Behzti’, a play by Gurdeep Kaur Bhatti, and Joana Russ’ ‘How to suppress women’s writing’, and led to a devised work that looks at the different, and perhaps more insidious ways that have, and in many ways still continue to, to silence the authentic, free and autonomous voices of women creators, but especially writers.
Two performers, both women, perform this guide that will in the end censor them in several ways and occupy the stage with an array of characters — women, men and creatures — to bring this guide alive. Funny, irreverent and acerbic, the piece ‘I am not here’, is rife with stories both true and imagined, and uses movement and music abundantly.
Devised and performed by Ronita Mookerji and Sharanya Ramprakash
Vocals by Pallavi MD ¦ Sound design by Nikhil Nagaraj ¦ Producer Veena Appiah
Production Assistant Akash Narendran ¦ Light design Pritham Kumar
About the Director: Deepika Arwind has been working in the theatre as a writer, performer and director for the last 8 years, professionally. Her works include Nobody Sleeps Alone, A Brief History of Your Hair and No Rest in the Kingdom (which has performed 35 shows in India and abroad). She has won and been nominated for several writing awards, including The Hindu Playwright Award (2013 and 2017), and her play One Dream Too Many (for TYA 12+) was invited to The Kennedy Center as part of the International Playwrights Intensive in 2016. Recently, she was a fellow at the Internationales Forum, a gathering of 35 young theatre-makers from across the world at Theatretreffen, Berlin.
Why this play?
In 2004, in the Birmingham Repertory Theatre was forced to cancel its run of Behzti, a play by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, due to violent protests by Sikhs, outside the theatre.
About the Company: The Lost Post Initiative has created works such as Nobody Sleeps Alone (finalist for The Hindu Metroplus Playwright Award 2013), A Brief History of Your Hair (At Gender Bender 2015, and the full-length supported by the India Foundation for the Arts and The New Voices Arts Project), No Rest in the Kingdom (produced by Sandbox Collective and supported by Shoonya Centre for Art and Somatic Practices)