By Gaudys Laxury
The New York International Fringe Festival is presenting Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan during its 20th anniversary from August 12-28, 2016 at the WOW Café Theatre. In this dark tale, Honour offers an emotional take of survival, pride, and the pursuit of truth in Indian brothels written and performed by theatre artist and NYWIFT member Dipti Mehta.
The one-woman show tells the story of the life of a young courtesan in the Mumbai pleasure district as she floats through her inner desires to escape or succumb to her ill-fated destiny. Mehta plays not only Rani, the courtesan, but also the wide variety of characters she interacts with: Chameli, the mother; Laal, the Shyam; the pimp; Pandit, the priest; Mina, the Eunuch; and Draupadi, the princess from the Indian epic Mahabharata. Mehta’s performance is amazing — she beautifully embodies each role while masterfully intertwining character performance with rhythmic dance combinations.
Dipti Mehta as Rani, the Daughter (photo by Gaudys Laxury)
The set is simple yet inviting, a chair with two pillows—less is more, which allows the audience to focus on the storyline and development of each character.
It would have been helpful to have a description on the program outlining the characters, but between Mehta’s interpretations and the background narration it is manageable enough to follow. The audience stays engaged throughout the entire show, laughing at the comedic moments and remaining quiet during the poignant parts. Mehta makes her incredibly controlled performance appear spontaneous and effortless, while fully and crisply embodying the characters.
Throughout each of the stories, movement and powerful music captivate the audience. One cannot help but visualize the struggles Rani, Chameli and Mina have endured and ponder how in real life most of the women involved in similar situations do not have a choice about their occupation.
The introduction of Mehta as Rani (photo by Gaudys Laxury)
Each story is skillfully crafted and connected, and Mehta gracefully transitions from one character to the other. She is phenomenal in her theatrical interpretation of the main character, Rani, who learned the tricks of the trade in order to entice potential clients, but is not allowed to pursue her sexuality for her own fulfillment. The depiction of the complexities between the mother and daughter is deeply moving. Mehta is particularly hilarious as Mina (the Eunuch) and gives the priest spiritual dignity with her deceptively gentle but comedic manner.
Honour stirs many emotions — alternately fun, sad, touching, comedic, and entertaining — while bringing light to a serious subject matter in modern society: sex trade and the women involved.
Honour is playing at the WOW Café Theatre (59-61 East 4th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003).
There are two shows remaining:
Friday, August 26th at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 27th at 5:00 p.m.
Tickets are available at FringeNYC.org.
NYWIFT member Sascha Just directed and produced Ellis, the first feature-length documentary about the late legendary New Orleans pianist and educator, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. Marsalis composed and performed major works of modern jazz infused with a uniquely New Orleans touch. Just spoke to us about all the ways in which jazz has influenced her work, getting to know a creative legend, and her DOC NYC premiere.READ MORE
In the documentary short The House of LaBeija, directed and produced by NYWIFT member Fredgy Noël, we meet the eponymous prominent ballroom family and safe haven for transgender women, queer people, and those in need of community. Over the course of 10 minutes, several members of the house dance, vogue, and celebrate their identities across a strikingly glamorous mansion that seems to be an embodiment of their safe harbor. Fredgy Noël spoke to us about ballroom culture, creative inspirations, and what’s next on her horizon.READ MORE
NYWIFT member Jill Woodward edited the documentary 1946: The Mistranslation that Shifted a Culture, which won the Audience Award at DOC NYC 2022. In this deeply personal tale, a gay seminary scholar and a straight activist, seeking to uncover the origins of the rabid homophobia of the conservative church, make a shocking discovery: an erroneous translation of the term “homosexual” in the Bible in 1946 that has been weaponized against the LGBTQIA+ community ever since. Woodward spoke to us about the editing process, what she learned along the way, and which types of projects excite her the most.READ MORE
NYWIFT member Panayiota Pagoulatos returned to Cannes a second time this year to attend MIPCOM, where she was pleased to find celebrations of women and diversity in entertainment, and to preview several exciting new TV series.READ MORE