It’s no news that women are often the unwitting recipients of the perils of patriarchy. Where multiple waves of feminism are struggling with the big picture, there are countless women struggling in daily life – against family, estranged relatives, conflicting workplaces, dangerous public spaces and Moreover. The latest work from Oho Productions Titlewritten and directed by Sreevathson V, is about one such battle.

Brahada and her mother-in-law, Gowri, two women made ‘celibate’ after their husbands were presumed dead after a religious procession turned chaotic, must defend their home – ancestral property – from a long-lost relative claiming property rights . It is not surprising that this particular relative is a very authoritative man, who married into a distant wing of the family and believes he has as much or more right to property than the two women who arrived there through through their husbands. The lack of a proper title deed will only tip the scales in his favor. But, undeterred, the women plead their case in a makeshift courtroom right there in their living room.

And it is such a fate that Sreevathson wanted to highlight through his play. “Self-acquired property law is categorically clear now, following the Supreme Court ruling in 2020. But there is still ancestral property law that needs more clarity. Also, the importance we place on the rule that daughters should have an equal share, I believe the same is not true for daughters-in-law. Obviously, the daughter-in-law receives the spouse’s share, but what if the spouse is missing or deceased and there is doubt? he reasons.

In Brahada and Gowri’s case, there is a retired judge who weighs the case fairly, a loyal “thug” who backs them up, and a set of circumstances that help them through the process. But it is not without conflicts and struggles. Be it the smart-mouthed lawyer who sees fit to rely on the Manusmriti to settle the property dispute or a politician who has his own agenda.

But Sreevathson uses these plot points to make his case. Brahada defends contemporary logic when she argues that ancient texts and codes should only serve as reference and precedence. “We can refer to how kings waged war in the Mahabharata, but can we expect the Indian army to use the same practices now?” she replies. “In our current environment, everyone says ‘that smriti says this ‘; especially in the context of women. There are many smritis that were written according to this particular era. I don’t ask them. But what are the current (ways of) living and the current norms? The Hindu Law of Succession has declared that this is the only law that will prevail. But our courts always go for Manusmriti. What should be used as a reference should not be used as a priority. I wanted to nail it not on this problem but on so many others where it happens,” he explains.

While making these important points, the piece also managed to subtly make another refreshing one about the relationship between the two women. Brahada casually calls her mother-in-law by name, they easily alternate between pulling each other’s leg and protecting each other’s space. Without warning, an easy intimacy is established between them, become more friends than anything else. This was to contradict the still-raging mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law stereotype, Sreevathson says. And isn’t that something?

‘Title’ will be presented to the Krishna Gana Sabha on May 18. For more details, visit Instagram: vathson_v

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