Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Made the Shortlist!

So, I wrote this play for The Metro Plus Playwright Award, 2012. And it's one of three plays shortlisted for the final award.

Here's what Shruthi Mathews has to say about my play:

For those who won't click on the link:

Too Close for Comfort

A play that takes an unsettling look at how filial affection could transform into erotic love – and what the consequence of such a blurring of lines might be.

“Baby” by Nandini Krishnan

Sashidharan and Shailaja are married, and clearly in love. They send each other letters of longing while Shailaja resides at her parents’ house during her pregnancy. They have everything to look forward — the delicious bliss of reunion, a new child, married life.

But Shailaja dies, and Sashidharan is faced with learning to cope with his loss whilst raising their daughter alone.

Still desperately in love with the memory of his late wife, Sashidharan continues his letters — addressed to the ghost of pleasures past and love lost. He encourages his young daughter to do the same, and the pair form a close bond over this special ‘secret’. But as she grows older, her attachment to her father grows deeper, and more possessive — she wants the letters to stop. Isolating herself within the domestic space, snarling at the prospect of marriage and violently determined to erase the memory of her mother, she draws further and further into an unsettlingly close relationship with her father that threatens to shock and disturb audiences.

In her exploration of the ties that bind, freelance writer Nandini Krishnan pushes her characters and her audience to disturbing places — forcing you to think about issues you may not often think about. Using a minimalist, epistolary format, and a sparse stage and cast, ‘Baby’ explores the dark and discomforting world of incest.

Influenced by the research she did on incest for an article published in Zeitgeist, The New Indian Express, “It’s not my place to condemn or endorse incest,” says the Chennai-based Nandini, “It exists, and it’s there. How does it make you feel? It’s disturbing, but I don’t think we can or should judge. I just want people to think a little. It puts you in an uncomfortable position and forces you to think about something you really don’t want to think about.”

But her play isn’t just about the shock factor of seeing a father and daughter getting too close for comfort. There are interesting inversions of conventional power dynamics — who is the victim? Is there a victim? Is this is a victimless crime, and if so, what on earth are we supposed to make of it?


Ajay said...

Congrats for getting shortlisted and wishing you good luck to get the award.
Agreed that nauseating though it is,incest needs to be discussed.Interesting that you say we cannot and should not judge incestal relationships and that you don't condemn or endorse incest.
If it is due to the fact that what incest is itself varies across places,religions and societies,it is understandable(being a Tamilian myself,i have grown up seeing mama/atthai-ponnu/paiyyan marriages and consider it perfectly acceptable,while many across the world may be shocked at the idea),but isn't the relationship between a father and her daughter considered incest,across boundaries,religions and societies?
I can understand homosexual relationships also being considered taboo by certain sections,but having their place in a civilised society.but incest?Does it have a place in a civilised society?and by extension,isn't the thought that it is taboo,that separates us from say,animals?
i feel really happy to think more on the subject than i previously had and would be glad to know what justification could it possibly have that you say you don't condemn it.Thanks.

Nandini Krishnan said...

I'm only saying it's not my place to condemn or endorse it. The only thing people can do is to think about these things, and not rush to make people who're involved in it feel awful about themselves. When we don't understand something, what right do we have to condemn it? And obviously, that isn't a blanket statement. I'm speaking in context.

Ajay said...

I never meant to condemn/pass judgement on people in such relationships by asking if YOU have any specific reasons to think that these kind of relationships may be right in a particular context(like the mama/athai-ponnu/paiyan example i'd mentioned)and apologise if i sounded so.

My question was simply from a theoretical perspective:only to achieve a better understanding of the subject,of which,as you rightly said,little is known:as a neutral onlooker,personally without any opinions,wondering what a person against whom accusing fingers are pointed at(and more importantly,whose own mind engulfs him/her in a sense of guilt),should say to give it to the asker right back,without feeling embarrased/guilty.

Yes,I do understand that the point you are making is that they shouldn't be asked to explain it in the first place,but as i said,in issues as taboo as this,the first questioner is usually the self's mind,delusioned by the society of which he/she is a part.

Would really appreciate your thought on this.Thanks.

Nandini Krishnan said...

I do get the question, but in my capacity as a writer, I offer no opinions or judgement. That's for the reader to arrive at.

Da Undertoad said...

I'm not sure i believe your assertion that you neither condemn nor endorse incest. i'm not sure that is possible for any socially responsible person to not see, recognize with sapience, the harm in incest. In fact i'd go so far as to say that any attempt to understand and deal with incest as a social ill requires judgement.
That said, i also think that the response to incest needs to be reasonable and reasoned. Not unthinking and knee-jerk.
here;s hoping you make the shortest list of all - the top step. well done ms. k.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Well said, Mr. Undertoad. :-) About the knee-jerk reaction, I mean.

And thanks for the wishes.

About incest, the way I see it, where abuse is involved, it's a black-and-white issue. When it isn't, or doesn't seem to be, there are grey areas.

And as I grow older - ahem - I find myself less willing to take strong stances on issues I don't relate to or understand, you know what I mean?

Marriage Equality said...

Congratulations. I found that interview and I blogged about it on my own blog, which argues for relationship rights for adults. I would be very interested in seeing your play. Any chance it will be playing in California? ;-)

I like to make a distinction between abuse/assault and consensual sex, so I use the term "consanguinamory" to describe consensual sex/erotic relationships between close blood relatives. Abusive incest is, of course, a horrible thing and mustb e fought. Consanguinamory, while disgusting to many, is a far different thing and there is no argument for interfering in such consensual relationships that is consistently applied elsewhere.

Thanks and congratulations again.

Kimish Patel said...

Hey, congrats on getting short listed. I arrived at your blog though the article in The Hindu as I was trying to find the article you wrote after having done the research on the issue which you mentioned, was published in Zeitgeist. I could not really find the article so I was wondering if you could point me to it if possible. I would like to read.
Also not having Tamil background, I was wondering, while going through the comments section, what did the marriages among mama/atthai-ponnu/paiyyan refer to. Thanks ang good luck.

Nandini Krishnan said...

@Marriage Equality: Yeah, that's sort of where I arrived, after writing the article, and after speaking to the people involved - and reading mails from people who'd seen and related to the article. I'm no expert, but it was an interesting exercise to try and see it from the perspective of two characters who're involved in consensual incest.

Nandini Krishnan said...

Thanks, Kimish. The article is here:

Well, basically:
Mama = mama, as in mother's brother
Aththai = bua, as in father's sister

In some cultures/family, apparently a girl can marry her mama or her mama's son. She can also marry her bua's son.

In other cultures, the children of sisters, or brothers, are also allowed to marry.

I personally think of those as incest, but oh well, that's just my opinion.

rohan kothari said...

Hello Nandini, I came across the article mentioning your play in the Hindu a while back and would like to read the complete script, if possible.

At present, I am shortlisting scripts for a public performance that my law school's theatre society is interested in conducting. It would be great if you would be open to the usage of your play 'Baby' for such an event. Do let me know if interested. Thanks!

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