The Pink Sari Revolution: ‘Put down your shame and pick up your stick.’

Sampat Pal formed the Uttar Pradesh’s Gulabi Gang in 2006 and Mira Mookerjee review’s the play, The Pink Sari Revolution, over a decade later. Based on the novel by Amana Fontanella-Khan, this play discards idealism for truth and grit.

‘Pink is not just the colour of a sari, pink is the colour of the sky before a storm.’

The Pink Sari Revolution beautifully merges comedic elements whilst being, at its heart, a politically charged play that documents the real life events of Sampat Pal and the Gulabi Gang’s fight for women’s justice.

The story follows Sampat’s efforts to free Sheelu Nishard from jail, who was being unjustly held under charges of theft in attempt to silence her rape allegations against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA member, Puroshottam Nath Dwivedi.

The play does not follow the expected narrative; instead it dares to be realistic. It depicts the contrasting opinions and arguments between those who share a common goal.

Sampat Pal is in no way portrayed as an image of angelic perfection; it shows her to be a highly controversial individual and, in my opinion, this is one of the most courageous elements of the play. Sampat is portrayed as a multilayered character rather than fitting into the unrealistic good/evil dichotomy. The poignant point this play makes is that no matter the accusations against the ways in which Sampat carries out her fight for women’s rights, her views on what qualifies as just are undeniable, and even those who do not believe in her methods do not have the heart to stop her.

Personally, I found it unbelievably refreshing to see portrayals of fiery, larger than life Indian women that are so rarely seen on our TV screens or stages.

The play’s Sampat Pal played by Syreeta Kumar repeatedly breaks the fourth wall, making the audience feel like active participants in the play’s progression.

‘The issues raised in the piece are truly international’ the programme reads, ‘facing not only women in India but closer to home in our own cities and communities’. This I felt was particularly relevant in the section where Sampat speaks out to the audience about ‘a leering man who’s been at your back since the day you sprouted breasts. He haunts your dreams, you look over your shoulder for him when you walk home, you look for him on buses and check he isn’t in changing rooms, sometimes he appears on the faces of your loved ones. Why is it we don’t talk about him? Shame. I tell you to put down your shame and pick up your stick’.

Three days after seeing the play lines are still circulating round my head. Beautifully staged and acted, I would say this is a definite must see.

The Pink Sari Revolution runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 11th November.

Mira Mookerjee

(Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Playhouse)