As Irom Sharmila continues in solitary confinement in Imphal, a group of theatre activists has taken up the cudgels to ensure the story behind her 11-year-old hunger strike reaches people across the country.
It is an adaptation of Meira Paibi (Women bearing torches), a drama written by Malayalam playwright Civic Chandran.
To get the urban audience hooked onto the life of Manipur's 'Iron Lady', the mono-play has been adapted into 'Le Mashale' (Take the torch) by Pune-based theatre artist Ojas S V bilingually in Hindi and English.
"When other artists show interest in the play we train them. So far it has already been adapted into Tamil and Marathi," she said.
Ojas has already performed the 40-minute-long soliloquy on stage more than a hundred fifty times across 15 states in the last two years. The artist says her objective is to bring people closer to the heroic life of Sharmila and to throw light on cases of human rights violation in Manipur.
Powered with poetries written by Sharmila, anecdotes from her life and the traditional folk stories of Manipur, her performance tries to recreate the horrifying circumstances which made the 39-year-old civil rights activist sit on an indefinite hunger strike to protest against the "draconian" Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
"It is unbelievable how one can survive so long without eating. She is nose-fed forcibly inside a special ward of a hospital, converted into jail," says Ojas when asked what makes Sharmila's life special for her.
"In films there is a distance between the audience and those performing. But the power of theatre allows me to directly connect with the audience's heart and mind," points out the artist who has been raising pertinent questions on the validity of AFSPA with her play.
Besides West Bengal and the north-eastern states, she has performed in Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
lso her role in spreading awareness on the issue doesn't stop with theatre. Ojas organises street marches, candle light protests and signature campaign supporting the cause of Sharmila.
"After my performance some people naturally turn sympathetic to the cause and so we organise such protests," she says.