Tag Archives: Plays

Read 21 of 2022. Love and Reparation: A Theatrical Response to the Section 377 Litigation in India by Danish Sheikh

Love and Reparation by Danish Sheikh

Title: Love and Reparation: A Theatrical Response to the Section 377 Litigation in India
Author: Danish Sheikh
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 978-0857427502
Genre: Plays, LGBTQIA
Pages: 164
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

You don’t see a lot of LGBTQIA literature coming out of the sub-continent, even though section 377 has been read down. You just do not. I am not surprised though. But what I was pleasantly surprised by was this text, aptly titled, “Love and Reparation” – a collection of two plays about the decriminalization of queer intimacy that took place on the 6th of September of 2018.

One decision that changed so many lives across the spectrum. From being “criminals” to not being criminals overnight, and to have full sexual agency meant something for most, and yet there was doubt about the future, given how we lived in the past. The future is as uncertain even today, almost four years into the judgement.

Danish Sheikh’s two plays bring out the true nature of how we feel. It is a representation I am glad exists. Both the plays bring forth the intermingling of the personal and the political, with the legal aspects playing a major role. Sheikh writes with so much empathy, yet never straying away from facts. Being a queer person, Danish speaks through these plays – everything that is so personal is out there.

“Contempt” and “Pride” are the two sides of the same coin and it couldn’t be truer. One play examines the before and one the after. Both speak about living with the law and what are the repercussions. I learnt the language of longing and desire pretty late though I knew somehow what it was a lot earlier. I have lived through a time when Section 377 was used by my family to put me in place and I have thankfully (perhaps) also lived to see the day when this section was read down.

Contempt was written as a response to the Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation judgement in the year 2013, when the Supreme High Court reinstated section 377, overturning the Delhi High Court judgement. Pride was written as a response to the decriminalization of 377 in the year 2018.

I felt deep sense of satisfaction after reading these two plays and yet I also felt this deep sense of loss, of something that is still not complete and needs to be looked at, with one eye on the future. And yet, these plays have provided so much hope and love inside of me for what’s to come. A love that can finally speak out loud.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

a raisin in the sun by lorraine hansberryTitle: A Raisin in the Sun
Author: Lorraine Hansberry
Publisher: Modern Library
ISBN: 978-0679601722
Genre: Drama, American Literature, Black Literature
Pages: 176
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 stars

Let me start this short review with this: Anyone who goes on and on and on about James Baldwin, which isn’t a bad thing at all by the way, should and must read Lorraine Hansberry. Amongst other things, Hansberry was the first black woman author whose play was performed on Broadway. It doesn’t seem much, but it is so much more, given the human rights they were fighting for – constantly, and still are.

Lorraine Hansberry did not write much. I wish she had. Her bibliography is limited. But, whatever she wrote is pure gold and deserves to be placed on the highest literary shelf there is. Her biography Looking for Lorraine by Imani Perry, which is a must-read if you’d like to know more about her. Well, let’s get on with A Raisin in the Sun.

What’s strange is that I had had the book on my shelf for years now but never picked it up. It is almost like you only read books when they are ready to be read and not before nor after. The timing has to be right and I am so glad that it was time for this play. This play is everything you think it is and more. A black family’s dreams and aspiration is portrayed heartbreakingly in this cracker of a play. The Younger family has decided to make something of themselves. While Ruth is content with what they have, her husband Walter isn’t. He wants to give a better life to their son, Travis. They live in poverty with Walter’s mother Lena and his sister Beneatha in a dilapidated two-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s south side. All Walter wants is a move, to some place better.

The entire play is about their trials and tribulations. And while Hansberry covers that brilliantly, she layers it with everything racist, everything prejudiced, and biased. There have been about three films based on this play, each better than the other and of course you must watch them when you can. Hansberry’s writing is without any apologies. It is as it is. Most of the play was semi-autobiographical and perhaps that’s why its candidness and brutal honesty challenged President Kennedy to take bolder stances on the Civil Rights Movement.

A Raisin in the Sun can rightly be called a movement. A revolution even – a small one and in its own way, a very important one. It was and continues to remain just that. A movement that will continue as long as disparity and inequality exists. Once you are done reading this extremely powerful play, read more by Hansberry. Be prepared to be in awe. Over and over again.

New Boy: Othello Retold by Tracy Chevalier

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier Title: New Boy: Othello Retold
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK
Imprint: Hogarth Shakespeare
ISBN: 978-1781090329
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I was skeptical about reading this one, only because Othello and Macbeth are my favourite Shakespeare plays and in my head, no one can adapt them. I am sure it has been done several times, but they still don’t hold a candle to the original. Hence, the skepticism.

At the same time, while I thought the book started off promisingly, something didn’t quite fit in. There was this constant nagging thought at the back of my head which I couldn’t place. Till I did and which I will speak about a little later.

“New Boy” is a classic circadian novel – a novel that takes place through a day. Maybe that is the reason it is short and couldn’t have been any longer than this. Also, it is the perfect book to read in today’s times – it is sad I say this, because it is about race and alienation in the 70s and we are in 2018. Something should have changed. We think some things have, but they haven’t. Racial discrimination is as real as it was then and we have only see it grow in the last couple of years.

Anyway, back to the book. “New Boy” is Othello retold. The setting: A private junior high-school and as the title suggests, a new boy Osei – straight from Ghana – a diplomat’s son nonetheless (so black and privileged) enters a school and a white girl, Dee (Desdemona) falls for him and that’s when the school bully Ian (Iago, of course) has to do something to tear them apart. It is the 70s and racial discrimination is at its height.

Chevalier gets references and slurs bang on – so real that I had to keep the book down a couple of times before picking it up again and also because many a times, the conversations didn’t seem to be had between eleven-year olds till I stopped thinking of it this way and started enjoying the story.

The book takes place in a day – at the beginning of a school day and finishes at the end. We all know how this one is going to play out. I couldn’t read further for the longest time, because I didn’t want the tragedy to strike. One would even think that the tragedy cannot be as gruesome as it has been depicted in other adaptations, for instance, Omkara but Chevalier packs a punch and how! Her interpretation of Iago is just as crafty (even more and scarier because it is projected on to a child) and then there is her Othello, who is just as gullible and prone to first-day of school politics.

“New Boy” was a read that I warmed to. I didn’t like it initially. I waited for it to grow on me and it did. It is the kind of book that cannot be rushed with either. You have to take it all in in one big gulp and wait for it to be digested before reading some more of it. Pick it up!