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Sari Crusaders Deliver Powerful Drama
Phil Hopkins, Travel & Arts Correspondent
Munir Khairdan and Syreeta Kum - photo by Pamela Rait
Pink is the colour of the sky before a storm. Ten short words maybe, but the inspiration for an army of pink sari clad revolutionaries who changed the misogynistic face of India forever.

Sampat Pal was the illiterate woman from Uttar Pradesh state who decided that enough was enough and, in her own controversial way, set out to build a protest army of women prepared to do battle with India’s Establishment, and those all too eager to blame female rape victims for their own demise.

Based on Amana Fontanella-Khan’s book, Pink Sari Revolution tells the story of Sampat Pal’s Gulabi Gang, a social organisation that works for women’s welfare and empowerment to this day.

Whenever there is injustice against a female, thousands of women in pink saris turn out to protest, causing such a furore that corruption and cover-up is invariably stopped in its tracks, as the country’s media descend and turn their spotlights on those officials at the centre of controversy.

It has been brought to the stage in a tri-part production by Leicester’s Curve, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Ulrika Krishnamuriti and Syreeta Kumar - photo by Pamela Raith
Adapted by Purva Naresh, one of India’s most celebrated playwrights and winner of a United Nations award for her work on gender, this is a powerful and gripping drama that holds you from start to finish.

Syreeta Kumar is the main protagonist and, as Sampat Pal, took complete control of this mammoth characterisation, which must be among the best roles around for an Asian female actor.

Undoubtedly Sampat Pal was a real trail blazer, ahead of her time and galvanised into action by a cruel society. But, what I liked about this drama was how it also captured human failings rather than simply bathing in the glory of justice.

Sharan Phull as Geeta, was gang District Commander, strong enough to rise up against wrong doing but, in the final event, intimidated by those who silently threatened to compromise her and her family as punishment for speaking out by virtue of her actions.

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And Sampat Pal herself, crusader, egotist or both? The play raised important questions. Clearly her motives were to eradicate and challenge injustice against women, but as she gained fame and notoriety, there was a sub script in Naresh’s narrative that suggested that her heroine was, latterly, in it for her own glorification.

This was a powerful, complex drama, beautifully staged and lit, and I cannot recommend it enough. It comes at a timely moment in British society when, some would argue, we have begun a new McCarthy witch hunt against men.

However, Pink Sari Revolution tells the less subtle story of injustice against women in India where many cases of rape, somehow, have been blatantly justified by a male ruling class on the basis that ‘she’ either ignored her father, ran away, or married someone disapproved of by the family.

Challenging, worthy and gripping.

Pink Sari Revolution
West Yorkshire Playhouse
Until Saturday 11 November 2017

Sari Crusaders Deliver Powerful Drama, 10th November 2017, 18:43 PM