Poetess, courtesan, dancer, warrior, kingmaker; vocabulary may fail us in truly describing every aspect of Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, but we are not giving up! The irony of her story lies in the fact that she is the hero that every feminist looks for, but somehow misses. She was a realist, purist and, above all, a feminist — all rolled into one; a local hero, who can be a strong, contemporary global role model of the 21st century. Ideals that feed the shouting frenzy on news channels every evening today, were her life’s real goals two centuries ago.
Her life was fun, adventurous, musical, political and tragic; but the real tragedy is that she remains forgotten in the very city that she achieved great feats in. A foreigner, sadly, had to come and remind us of her — and this is the biggest thorn in Vinay Verma’s side. Vinay — the director of the monologue Mah Laqa Bai Chanda, brought to life by the words of Dr Bawa.
For Ratika, who plays Mah Laqa, the journey of discovering this wonder woman, and in the process discovering the actress within her, has been nothing but beautiful. “I took up this play for two reasons. I really wanted to do a play in Urdu, and second, I think her story is about the apathy of women; it is so relevant even today. She undoubtedly is the pioneer of feminism,” says Ratika. While she feels blessed for having landed this role, playing it has, at the same time, been difficult. Ratika did not know Urdu to begin with. Moreover, she felt that the director was very reluctant in casting her. “He did everything to dissuade me. I now know, he was testing my drive to do the role; but back in 2013, it became a challenge for me, which I was determined to overcome,” she recalls.
Corroborating Ratika’s words about the monologue’s casting, Vinay says, “She was definitely not the obvious choice, so I wanted to see how much she wanted this. Since then she has come a very, very long way.”
Vinay also believes in maintaining purity of the language, which according to him is what captures the character’s essence. “The audience has to raise their levels. I refuse to bring down the level of this character for them,” he adds. So let’s rise to the occasion this Friday, when Mah Laqa’s words will transcend her grave through Sutradhar’s production. We owe it to our city and its beautiful history.