Nirbhaya is a piece of theatre that grips you with its compelling depiction of issues tormenting women, emotionally and physically. The 90-minute performance written and directed by Yaël Farber starts with the tragic gang rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey, known by the pseudonym Nirbhaya, meaning fearless in Hindi, and later follows four stories of sexual abuse and violence. These power packed performances inspired by real life incidents of the artists leave you shocked, enraged and emotionally high by the end when Nirbhaya once again takes over the plot.
Priyanka Bose, actress and model, brings us close to the issue of child abuse. Bose fiercely runs the audience through her childhood of sexual abuse depicting the mental trauma and helplessness of those in that situation. Succeeding Bose’s story is Rukhsar Kabir who was regularly beaten by her father growing up and later raped repeatedly by her husband. Kabir tosses a subject that made headlines in February 2015 in India when the Supreme Court rejected a female’s plea to declare marital rape a criminal offense. The court’s argument that it was not possible to order a change in the law for one person has only invited contempt and opposition against the country’s judicial system. Activists across India are fighting to criminalise the much prevalent practice of martial rape in India.
Amongst the talented pool of artists was Sneha Jawale who faced domestic violence and was burnt alive by her husband and in-laws. Jawale stages her story in this highly impactful narration of events to her son who was separated from her at the age of five. She stands at the center of the stage and retells her story while holding a blue-coloured shirt which signifies her five-year-old boy in her arms. Jawale is one of the several survivor-turned-activist spreading awareness and hope for other victims. Pamela Mala Sinha, our next artist taking center stage, acts out her story of rape in Montreal, when she was a student at the National Theatre School.
Noted theatre actor Ankur Vikal, the only male performer excellently projects multiple roles while Japjeet Kaur, singer and actor, playing Nirbhaya for the most part is seen singing a sombre tune.
Farber’s staging is simple with six seats and bus windows hanging in the background. Although the projection is powerful and intense, especially considering the fact that artists are playing stories from real life experiences, it seems lengthy towards the end.
Overall, the talented artists and team of Nirbhaya rightly captivate the essence of fearlessness into the plot. And although it might not be bearable to everyone, it is necessary to acknowledge the presence of these issues not in one place or community but the overall human society.