“Shantata! Court Chalu Aahe” or “Silence! The Court Is in Session” is a Marathi play written by playwright Vijay Tendulkar.
I read this play in my second year of BA under the Indian English Paper in the drama group. This play was my favorite for so many reasons, because the dramatist used such innovative way of placing the sensitive and socially degenerative thoughts without critiquing them.
What started as a rehearsal for the main play, soon becomes something else altogether. The power of imagination is released, and it takes up an ugly angle. The shattering of personalities to shameless shreds happens. The inevitable follow through of action is a shamed woman with broken spirits.
This play brings out the natural social tendencies for observing relationship between a man and a woman outside the socially acceptable relationship elements being present between them. An unfettered woman and a committed man have always been viewed with such twisted perception that it is quite interesting to note, that the progress hasn’t happened to date.
We still have movies that has dialogue that states, “a man and a woman can never be friends”, but seriously! I come from a totally girls and woman only educational background. During my younger and older days, I was totally fascinated with books and felt more comfortable in the company of books more than people. That did not stop me from analyzing relationship. I started to analyze relationship almost when I was about 25 years or later.
Most part of the time, the relationship that I analyzed were from the drama, theater, short stories, novels and novelettes that I have read or watched. The fact that theories cannot make for practical experience, is true. My circle of influence were books that I kept reading since my eight-grade upwards.
Even today, I prefer my own company with books than with actual people. People are variables and unpredictable. Books are predictable and I can hold my silence and just listen. I like to listen more than talk. Maybe because I lack the social skills for it. So, for someone like me to give expression to the deep-seated thoughts I would choose to write in the blank sheets of a word processor or a diary page.
Instead of taking the illusive woman imagined by the playwright, Tendulkar, I place myself in the circle of observation and I wonder out loud?! So, a list of failures in relationship and failures in expected areas of predictable achievement in assigned roles. I am that woman who as per the social standards and backward view has inevitably lost and can never reinstate my existence or my identity – I am judged equivalent to a widow. The verdict is harsh but unfortunately, the blame stands at my doorstep making me a burden on my origin family.
My personal challenges are my own and I am at fault at all reference point. This is exactly what happens in the play and woman takes the blame endlessly. Why are woman taken in by the social framework that is slapped on their face and drilled with nails into their soul by society at large. That woman, I remain defeated and a social outcast for the rest of my life. Partly the reason why I don’t want to meet people or talk to anyone for that matter.
That is when I look at this play and understand silence the social court is in session staining me in dark hues. The tarred personality of my being screams to be understood without being judged for a crime that I didn’t commit in the first place. This Marathi play is exceptionally intense and accurate in bringing out the general frustration of woman against woman and the perception of men about woman and their roles.
I found this play fascinating during my younger days and the first time I read it; I was floored. That night my diary entry were emotional. Even these days, I do write emotional diary entries when my understanding gets a chance to express itself. In all this, the main character, the accused woman voices her thoughts and pleads for not guilty but the court outcaste her. The verdict is unfair and abusive for all the women. Even though the question placed was feticide.
I saw this play with Nandita Das playing the accused victim role. The naturalness with which the play progressed is beautiful to observe. I would recommend this play and it is worth watching when you want to see a play that socially questions the accepted rules.