Sinlung /
18 August 2011

Enacting The Irom Legacy

Ojas S.V. as Irom Sharmila in the play <i>le Mashale</i>

Ojas S.V. as Irom Sharmila in the play le Mashale

Introducing Manipur as the land of strong women, recounting tales of its past glory and misery, Ojas S.V. takes on the role of one of the strongest the North Eastern state has produced — Irom Sharmila Chanu.

She steps onto the stage with a lamp and begins the story of the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ who has been on an indefinite fast for nearly 11 years, demanding the Indian Government to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958.

Ojas, as Irom, narrates the violent acts by the army that prompted the latter to fast until her demands were met.

“Irom used her body as a medium of expression (by fasting) and as a theatre artiste, I too am doing the same to communicate to people,” says young Ojas, after staging the play le Mashale (A woman with a torch) — for the 115th time — in Kochi.

The aspirant actor adapted the story of one of the most inspiring women the world has seen into a play.

“When I first came to know about Irom, I could not believe it was true, yet it was real. At 28 years of age, when it was time for a young woman to realise her dreams, Irom devoted her life to a cause. I wanted everyone to know her story.”

And she has taken the story around the country, bringing people closer to the cause Irom has devoted her life for.

The play, a soliloquy, also talks about the struggles faced by such women as Manorama Devi, who was allegedly raped and killed by the armed forces, and of the nude protest by 40 women.

Known as ‘Meira Paibi’ women groups began taking up issues relating to militarisation and military excesses since the 1980s.

Based on them and Irom’s protest, Malayali writer Civic Chandran wrote the play Meira Paibi two years ago.

It is this story that Ojas had adapted in the form of an activist play. “The problem of North East is our problem. Tomorrow it may come to Kerala,” says Civic.

Ojas is taking her play across Kerala across ten districts from till August 25.

The theatre artist, among her other work, brings to light the Bhopal Judicial Tragedy (which was enacted as a mock play) and social movements by young people, in the form of letters written between two people.

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