Clad in a yellow and red dress, when Dheerabhai accused people from the upper caste of having killed her Balu, anger and resentment flowed through her veins and reflected in her eyes. Dheerabhai condemned the murder of her man, a Dalit, who was beaten to death for having touched the holy cow. As this scene played out in a Malayalam drama performed at the venue of 57th School Kalolsavam in Kannur, the audience saw it as a mirror reflecting the caste atrocities in the country.
Named "Dheerabhai," it is a theatrical interpretation of KG Sankara Pillai's poem "Sarvayya," performed by the students of Chalissery Government Higher Secondary School, Palakkad.
Balu, a Dalit man whose "duty" was to bury dead cows, was beaten to death for having touched a live cow, while trying to rescue it from drowning. While "Sarvayya" spoke about Balu, the scriptwriter of "Dheerabhai" was particular that he wanted to narrate the story through Balu's woman.
Performed by eight students, the drama was a mirror to the caste atrocities, told through the lives of women in the community. Though the play chose not to suggest a solution to the matter, it ended on a powerful note, with Dheerabhai and the rest of the actors literally spitting on the hypocrisy of the society that is dominated by caste hierarchy, that too, with the help of its Dalit gods.
Speaking to The News Minute, theatre personality MG Sasi who scripted the play, spoke about the significance of addressing Dalit issues through women.
"The main reason why I wanted the story to be told from the perspective of a woman is because Sarvayya is a purely male narrative. After KGS wrote the poem three months back, I asked him what would have been the name of Balu's woman, if at all he had one. That's how Dheerabhai got her name and became the central character of the play," MG Sasi said.
He feels that the play attains more significance when it is enacted by school children, who are often forced to be apolitical and deliberately kept away from politics.
"We have had our greatest politicians come from student politics at the age of 16 and 17. But now there is a trend to keep them away from social issues. That's not right. We saw the rise of student leaders including Kanhaiya Kumar the previous year and many more student protests unfolding in the country. The children who took part in the play have changed and developed a political perspective after just two months of practice session," MG said.