New Hindi play Raat explores the lasting trauma of sexual assault

The Essay Ensemble piece is taking the stage at Alliance française de Bangalore on March 12

Ankita Jain and Ankit Tripathi in a scene from the play

By Reema Gowalla

Art, they say, helps to heal trauma. If not, one will at least find a way to cope with it. Playwright Javed Siddiqui’s piece Raat sheds light on the wound that we carry for a longer time than we think. Along the way, trauma also changes the manner in which we conduct ourselves and respond to the world. An Essay Ensemble presentation, the play addresses these layers in detail.

After its first run in December 2021 at Ranga Shankara, the Salim Arif directorial is back in town, taking the stage at Alliance française de Bangalore on March 12 at 4pm and 7pm. The story revolves around rape victim Aashi, who lived a quiet and peaceful life with her husband Kabir until suddenly one day she meets Kavi, the man who had committed the crime. What unravels after that is what the plot of Raat concentrates on. Produced by Lubna Salim, the 1-hour-15-minute play features actors Ankita Jain, Avantika Gautam, Ankit Tripathi and Ankit Pranav.

Avantika Gautam

“The choices that the victim of such a heinous crime makes later in her life, and how this one incident changes the course of her entire journey and of those who are close to her constitute the central themes of the play. While on the surface it appears to be only about Aashi’s personal method to cope with the trauma that she suffered, the plot has many underlying facets to it. The subtexts are woven keeping in mind the other characters of the play,” explains assistant director Nirlek Dhulla.

Giving a peek into her preparation for the role of Aashi, Ankita says, “Understanding the triggers, confidence level and social anxiety of a rape victim was important before we jumped into depicting a character like this on stage. It’s a sensitive topic and an equally challenging role to play. We were constantly in touch with Delhi-based clinical psychologist Aanchal Chatrath to comprehend these details while the making of the play. Personally, the internalising process is what took me a while. There were days when I felt extreme sadness and anxiety. As a child, I remember knowing a case of molestation. This play was in a way revisiting those unpleasant memories. If getting into the skin of the character was intimidating, recouping was even more difficult. But I must say that this play has allowed me to grow as an actor.” Ankita and Avantika take turns to play the role of Aashi for different shows.

Ankita and Ankit Pranav

“Dealing with such a topic through the medium of theatre is not easy. While we want to evoke empathy and compassion among the members of the audience, it was important that we portray the pain and anguish with honesty and seriousness, and without trivialising the subject at any point,” says Nirlek, adding, “The effort has been to transcend barriers and allow people to sit back and reflect on the personal traumas and dilemmas that we carry within ourselves. Although the script was originally written in the early 2000s, we have tried to re-contextualise it considering the present scenario.”

You can book your tickets here.

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