• Does a rapist have 'izzat'?

    Benita FernandoMumbaiMay 07, 2017, 10:35 IST

    Long before the gang-rape of Nirbhaya in 2012, there was Rinku Patil, a student who was burned alive in her classroom at the school she went to in Ulhasnagar. She had been harassed by a certain Haresh Patel, who had been pestering her to marry him, and, when she rejected his advances, he set her on fire. "I remembered the incident from my childhood," says theatre practitioner Rasika Agashe. "It was startling that so many people were there in the school during the time of the incident, and, yet, no one tried to stop it," she says.

    The real-life account of Patil is one of the monologues of Museum of Species in Danger, a play that came out after the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. The play, written and directed by Agashe, is a set of 12 monologues drawn from fictional and mythological characters besides real-life incidents. Museum of Species in Danger is a Hindi protest play, says Agashe, and treats the issue of rape and gender discrimination seriously but with bouts of comedy. Enacted by Being Association, the hour-long play looks at the many forms of sexual harassment. "During our rehearsals, we realised that nearly every woman has some incident to share about how she was sexually harassed - someone may have flashed at her or molested her in a bus," says Agashe. In the play, the character of Rinku Patil is the only one in which the crime is depicted onstage; the rest of the monologues follow after the crime has occurred.

    Rasika Agashe
    Rasika Agashe

    The monologues are interspersed with songs and a male chorus, a technique that Agashe says is imperative to show that the play is not anti-men. "It is against the idea of patriarchy and that men are not greater than women," she says, adding, "When a woman is raped, we say that her 'izzat' is gone. But, the truth is, it is the rapist's 'izzat' that is lost." And, about the rather curious title? You'll have to watch the play to find out.

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