Play Review: The Black White Etc.

The Black White Etc.: Why has the humanity denied men from the joy of mothering?

Mallika Batra

The Play Black White etc. turned out to be spectacular success with the audience. It was one of the major highlights of the Mental Health Awareness week.

It raised a question that comes to the mind of most progressive women. “Who is an ideal mother” or “What epitomizes the ideal of a good mother”.  The play opened, with a class room scene, where a student addressed these questions to a psychologist.

Kunti and Karna’s role in the first scene made the audience look at a mother-child relationship from a mother’s perspective. Taking into account the external factors involved in shaping the relationship, it also made one realize that society tends to have a very biased view regarding this delicate issue. However, a few people in the audience found this excerpt from the Mahabharat a little difficult to comprehend, owing to their lack of knowledge of the epic.

In the second and third scene the play vividly captured the difference between working and non working mothers in the current day scenario, which may also be conceived as the difference between ‘bad’ and ‘good’ mothers, the concept originally given by Object Relations Theory.

The play, directed by Bani Malhotra and co directed by Aakriti Pasricha, was beautifully conceptualized and executed. The directors were powerful in their imagination and projected the same appropriately in the play. The development of the play was spontaneous and it had its own internal energy and rhythm. They achieved their aim perfectly by a wonderful and clear presentation of their ideas thereby forcing us to think.

To think about what makes a woman become a “good mother” in the true sense of the term, and to question society’s notion of the ‘non- working’ mother as the ideal-as the only one who can do the justice to her child and give him/her the so called ‘ right kind’ of upbringing.

The view held by feminists, intellectuals, professionals, that neglecting one’s career to take care of the child would mean repressing one’s own growth needs  cannot also be the solution. A woman can be a non-working mother and still be a perfect example of a bad mother, therefore the ‘housewife’ path is not the ultimate key to successful parenting and this same is true for the working mother too.

Categorizing women  into two water-tight compartments, of good and bad, cannot be justified. What a good mother characterizes, would be completely subjective, depending on circumstances, people in her life and personal opinion. All of these would ultimately influence her parenting choices and decisions. But if a mother loves her child, and does everything in her power to raise the child well and fulfill all of the child’s needs then she can be called a good mother.

As far as focusing on child over career is concerned, that is a personal choice, influenced by external factors and does not necessarily mean that the woman is a bad mother. Consider for example the case of a single parent or a woman who is unable to provide for the material needs of her child.

Finally,the actors did a phenomenal job and left the audience completely mesmerized. The acting was so impressive that we were left wondering whether the play was performed by the Psychology department or the Dramatics Society.The light and sound effects were limited, however they did not seem unsubstantial or lacking. The use of the props, imagery was very impressive. Some of them like the psychology book were exaggerated. The professor’s spectacles, the psychology sign on the chair and the cute little cups all added to the charm. The use of such props eased the seriousness of the play. The use of language was precise and simple.

The presentation of the whole play was very objective in style. It did not try to color our opinion, it merely planted an ‘idea’, to be thought about in our minds. It left an indelible impact on us. At the end of the play some questions were raised and left open to the house. They still linger in our heads and impel us to find answers and to raise more questions.

The play in no way was judgmental. No effort whatsoever was made to colour the opinion of the audience. In a very objective way a pertinent question was raised which would compel one to think and decide.


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