May 29 2016
Being a woman is a challenge in some situations but as one artist demonstrates, the very condition of being one involves certain unconscious manoeuvres all the time…
By Dimple Pau
THE LIGHTS go out, and when switched back on, the audience is taken on a journey.
A journey starting with an bespoke inner dialogue as we the audience are stared at by a woman (Mallika Taneja) wearing nothing but a pure smile.
After a long moment that feels an eternity, Mallika begins her monologue while simultaneously dressing herself in layers of garments from shorts and jeans to scarves and dresses.
This is a brave, powerful and raw performance that is one of those pieces of art that will never be forgotten for anyone in that room.
Through appearing naked on stage and dressing her blank canvased body, she challenges the notion that clothes are a factor in women getting raped.
The monologue, with comedic under tones, brings to life the very real conflicts and battles women all over the world face.
The responsibilities, the fears, the unwanted attention from men and the wanted attention from the ‘right’ men. The layers and layers of clothes she puts on finely mirrors the layers and layers that make up being a woman.
It all comes together the moment she says the words ‘Be Careful’ as something her father would say to her before she leaves the house.
Fear is the running theme throughout and the current reputation of Delhi means the fear for women in India is more than it’s ever been. She speaks in child-like, innocent tones and captivates every single person in the room. Mallika’s 20-minute performance does more for feminism than lectures and books.
The post-performance tea and discussion articulated the different responses and feelings the audience had – but the unanimous response was awe. This could arguably be one of the most important pieces of Alchemy 2016.
AVC Rating ***** (out of five)
Mallika Taneja performed ‘Be Careful’ (‘Thoda Dhyaan Se’) at the Southbank Centre as part of Alchemy on Sunday, May 22 2016.