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Wednesday, May 29, 2013


(Back: Arno Wagenaar, Kamini Govender, Shirvedh Pillay, Sashin Kandhai, Prenasha Govindasamy, Rowin Munsamy, Christiaan du Plessis and Calavani Govender. Front: Renaldo Mudaly, Camilla Wolfson and Irinka Nelson)

Bollywood comes to the Square Space Theatre! Even though the performing area of this theatre is not large, choreographer Sashin Kandhai has made full use of the Square Space in some good dance sequences, complete with the gorgeous costumes that go with the Indian culture.

However, it’s not all about Indian folk dance, Bharatanatyam and contemporary Indian dance styles. There is a strong storyline which kicks into gear in the second half and offers some very dramatic as well as poignant scenes. Written and directed by Verne Munsamy and is set in the heart of India, Consenting Silence: Shanti Manjur deals with a group of university students who enjoy watching Bollywood movies, hence the introduction of the dance sequences.

Manish and Damini are in love, Damini having rejected the advances of Ajith who was a former friend of Manish. Damini’s father strictly adheres to his culture and disapproves of his daughter’s modern behaviour and clothing while his mother-in-law, Daadi, tries to keep the peace between father and daughter. Things go horribly wrong when the student group attend a party and most of them get very drunk. The resulting rape and its impact on the group causes everyone to take a long look at whether age-old cultural beliefs work in a modern society when it comes to covering up atrocities.

“The heroine, Damini, and this story, is our tribute to our sisters who have lost the battle against violence and abuse … it is our way of showing that the war still rages on,” says Munsamy.

The cast is made up of experienced and non-experienced dancers but the overall impact is consistent and impressive. An excellent dancer, Sashin Kandhai shines in the role of Manish with Prenasha Govindasamy matching him as the beautiful Damini. Renaldo Mudaly impressed with his arrogance and physical strength as the rapist, particularly when he defends his actions. As the father, Rowin Munsamy brought much pathos at the end and a completely unrecognisable Shona Johnson, playing a woman three times her age, was the feisty grandmother.

Another notable performance comes from Kamini Govender as the depressed friend although I question the logic of Damini taking someone in such a fragile mental state to a hectic party.

The remainder of the cast are also to be congratulated in having pulled off a “mini-extravaganza” in the Square Space: Slindiwe Hlengwa; Sivani Chinappan; Irinka Nelson; Camilla Wolfson; Calavani Govender; Arno Wagenaar; Christiaan du Plessis; Shirvedh Pillay and Xia Narain. I would also like to commend the accuracy of the Indian (as in India) accents which are not easy to pull off as we don’t hear them very often in South Africa.

Presented by ScruffySessions Productions in collaboration with Xtraordinaire Dance Company (X.D.C), Consenting Silence: Shanti Manjur runs at the Square Space Theatre at the Drama department of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College Campus until June 1 at 19h00 (Saturday and Sunday shows at 15h00). Tickets R60 and R40. For bookings call 083 763 6292 (during working hours) or email – Caroline Smart