By Manju Sampat
Raell Padamsee's ACE Productions had the premier show of the brilliant play
' Aruna's Story', last night, at the impressive Royal Opera House. This solo act is a theatrical adaptation of journalist Pinki Virani's best selling book by the same name. This heart hitting play is based on the true story of the brutal rape case of Aruna Shanbaug, the Indian nurse, who later became the center of attention in a court case on Euthanasia.
Arvind Gaur has done a great job of directing this Tour de Force. The play opens dramatically to a darkened stage where the violent rape is being perpetrated. The stage is functional, where a metal scaffolding demarcates different rooms and locations. Dressed in a black tee shirt and pants, Lushin Dubey, the protagonist, becomes different characters, as she casually uses costumes and props that are hung on the metal bars or kept on side stool, to become different people. In a dynamic evening of theatre, critically acclaimed actress Lushin Dubey, plays 18 roles to tell Aruna’s heartbreaking story.
A haunting musical score in the background adds to the drama enfolding on stage. Lushin held the audience spell bound with her powerful performance as she easily transitioned from being an old woman to portraying a fifteen year old boy and did in fact play all 18 characters! Lushin skilfully and seamlessly shifted in and out of these different characters. She effortlessly played both Aruna and the perpetrator of the brutal rape as well as a host of other personalities that were part of her life till that fateful night, which forever changed her life. One minute Lushin was the young Aruna in her hometown Haldipur in Karnataka who wanted to work in Bombay, the next second she was the matron nurse at KEM hospital and then the Dean of the hospital. We saw her as a police officer, as Dr. Sardesai, Aruna’s fiancé, as her roommate Usha as well as a string of other characters. What was remarkable was that for each of these roles that Lushin enacted, she managed to get the accent and expression of that character, spot on.
Aruna was raped by Sohan Lal, the cleaner in the dog lab at the hospital. He also twisted a metal chain around Aruna’s neck, because of which she went into a coma and lay in a vegetative state for 42 years in the hospital. Pinki Virani fought for Aruna’s rights to euthanasia, and demanded that any person in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) has a right to euthanasia. Sohan Lal got a mere seven years jail sentence and was freed after six years! However, changes came about in these laws as a result of Aruna’s case, as now a rapist can be tried for murder if his victim dies. Aruna finally died a natural death in May 2015, after having been “murdered but not killed”. This brutal incident had not just extinguished one life, but it also led to a profound re – examination of the very right to life and death with dignity.
Raell Padamsee’s Create Foundation, works with issues related to women and children. Therefore, after the show there was an interactive discussion related to these problems between the audience and the special guests from the different arms of the government, and representative NGO's. A very significant event in the light of the recent #Metoo Movement.