NEW YORK CITY (TIP): The electrifying new off-Broadway production Nirbhaya is currently in preview performances at The Lynn Redgrave Theater for two weeks. Written and directed by internationally acclaimed Yaël Faber of South Africa, in collaboration with an extraordinary cast and creative team from India, Nirbhaya had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2013. The production won the coveted Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for the outstanding Fringe production that raises awareness of human rights and other awards.
After the performance at Lynn Redgrave Theater Wednesday, acclaimed filmmaker Deepa Mehta, who is making a film on this subject matter, moderated a discussion with the performers.
On the night of December 16, 2012, a young pharmacy student named Jyoti Singh Pandey and her male friend boarded a bus in Delhi heading for home. What followed changed the lives of these two people and countless others forever. Unable to reveal her name, the press named her “Nirbhaya” -Fearless One. In a bid to shatter the silence around sexual violence, Nirbhaya play’s performers have presented the shocking events surrounding Jyoti’s story, as well as give their own moving testimonies, cracking open the cone of silence around women whose lives have been shattered by sexual and domestic violence.
It is hard to overstate the emotional impact of seeing Pandey’s attack played out on stage, and of hearing these women describe what they themselves have gone through: one performer, her face disfigured by scars, describes being set alight by her husband over dowry demands, and her despair at subsequently having her son taken from her. One of the 5 female performers was raped in her student apartment in Montreal – which underlines the fact that sexual violence is not endemic to India.
Poorna Jagannathan, the play’s Originating Producer and performer, is an award-winning actress and has worked extensively in theatre, film and TV in India and in the US. She has a degree in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland. She currently lives between Mumbai and New York City.