Cast of Irom

Sadananda Singh

"Thagippu, a solo act by Jeny Dolly, means an unquenchable thirst or dry heat as if you are stuck in a sauna. Broadly, the play talks about the State and its repression and how, in a democracy, art should be the conscience of the people," says A Mangai, an academician and a theatre veteran from Chennai, who has staged Thagippu in colleges, seminars and women's conferences in Tamil Nadu. Thagippu incorporates verses of several women poets of Sri Lanka into Sharmila's story as well as adds references to Anna Hazare's fast and the movements surrounding the Koodankulam nuclear plant

All plays strive to project Sharmila as an ordinary young woman she was in her twenties when she began to fast who staked her most prized asset, her life, for the sake of peace. "In Manipur, cynics say that Sharmila's fast is a publicity stunt," says S Thaninleimma, a Manipuri theatre person. In 2007, she visited Sharmila in hospital and came away stunned. "She has a one-point agenda repeal AFSPA," says Thaninleimma. That year, she staged Final Countdown, with an old sculptor, his students and a photograph of Sharmila as the protagonists. The visually powerful, dialogue-heavy play talks about art, freedom and peace. "After I presented the play at Manipur university, I was asked, 'what is the meaning of peace'? Peace, I answered, is when you can think and speak freely. We cannot do that in Manipur because we don't know if we can trust the other person," she says.

"The plays are an effort to ensure that Sharmila's fast stays in the minds of the people. Many a Gandhian struggle goes unnoticed, only a few get highlighted," adds Mangai. She could draw heart from a YouTube comment on Le Mashale: "You've opened several eyes that aren't going to get closed again".

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