Going by the Oxford Dictionary, the word ‘item’ means a thing, an article, an object, a product or a commodity. The word, unfortunately, has found a resonance in the Bollywood and is being used indiscriminately to lure audiences to cinema halls. Much before the word found its way into the mainstream conversations, it was a pivotal tool in the B-grade movies to draw crowd. The makers of the titillating and voyeuristic films zoomed in the lens on the body parts of an actress to offer ‘temporary sexual excitement’ to its audiences. The brazen “objectification” of female actors had always concerned Kshitish Date and when he discussed the subject with fellow members of the theatre community, he felt the need to decode the culture of exploitation. His play, Item, thus puts the spotlight on the “commodification” of female actors in the B-grade film industry.
“When I discussed the problem of commodification of women in the film industry, I was surprised to find that my team too identified it as a problem. But we didn’t know how to articulate and address this issue,” says Kshitish.
This discussion became a fertile ground that allowed the ‘seed’ to grow into a full-fledged play ‘Item’ which is one of the 10 shortlisted plays at the prestigious Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META). The play explores the issue through the eyes of L. Rakesh, originally a light man and now an assistant to B- Grade superstar Sapna. In a compelling monologue, Rakesh would introduce viewers to the milestones of this B-grade film’s actress’ life while exposing the objectification of the female body. It also looks at the male chauvinistic media that exploits a women’s image to sell its products and the toll it takes on Sapna, who is nothing more than an item.
“There is a scene in which he describes how the director of a film would break the body parts of the actress in pieces and how the cameraman would be asked to zoom into those specific body parts,” he says.
The culture of B-grade films once used to be popular across Indian cities and towns. However, with ‘porn’ freely available on the internet, there has been a steady decline in the number of films being made now. But, some films are still being made to cater to a certain audiences.
“I went to a Mumbai studio where these films are still being made to get a hang of the set-up. Then I also visited a few video parlors that play these films, besides meeting women right’s activists.”
Kshitish also points out that these films usually have a pattern. “After every 10 minutes there would a bed scene. These films were basically meant for working or labour class who would watch them just to get numb.”
Sharing his happiness over the play being shortlisted in META, Kshitish gleefully admits that “he is excited”. Also, since the play will be staged at Kamini Auditorium on April 17, the Pune-based director is elated over getting a “bigger stage”.
“It is a huge space. I might have to change the positioning of actors for better distribution,” he concludes.