What War does to Women… 9 Parts of Desire


Ira Dubey performs at Patna

Ira Dubey performs at Patna

These are essentially stories of women who have lived under the shadow of war.

They  have  witnessed the brutality of a ruthless regime. Heather Roffa in her play, 9 Parts of Desire, has humanised war, from a very feminine point of view. She’s taken these nine everyday women — a doctor, this girl who listens to Justin Timberlake sitting in Iraq, this exile, this artist… and has something that can keep you on the edge of your seat for 75 minutes. The lives of these remarkable women maybe far removed from our own in terms of space or geography but watching “9 parts of Desire” performed by Ira Dubey will be a lasting memory.

The play spans the decades between the first and second Gulf Wars, describing the lives of nine Iraqi women — either of real women, or inspired by the lives of real women. As Lillette Dubey, who has directed this award winning play for Indian audiences said in an interview in Calcutta two years ago, “ Heather was very excited that we are doing it in India. I want people to know about the play. What an interesting way to write! Different points of view on living in a war-torn conflict zone. It becomes very identifiable. This is life and this is how they live and deal with things and it’s survival. It becomes a metaphor for many people and situations. That’s why it grabs you.”

And it did grab us people sitting in the darkness Premchand Rangshala while an unseasonal rainstorm battered howled around Patna on Easter night. Nine lives. Nine voices of desire. Nine women, all embodied by the shape-shifting Ira Dubey who , very much like the Ancient Mariner, held you mesmerised and transfixed, with that lump in your throat, while somewhere in your subconscious you can almost feel the ghost of Pete Seeger strumming his guitar in the background singing “How many deaths will it take till we know, that too many people have died?’ A uniquely intimate and feminine point of view on the consequence of violence,  these rich monologues transcend time, space and politics.

The play opens on a woman who does not speak, she is a professional mourner, whose role is to mourn loudly in her lamentation of the dead on the way to the grave. Ira moved from one character to another by voice and through body language. A portrait of the extraordinary (and ordinary) lives of a cross-section of Iraqi women: a sexy painter, a radical Communist, a doctor, an exile, wives, mothers, and lovers – the play delves into the many conflicting aspects of what it means to be a woman in a country overshadowed by war.


About three years ago, Ira stumbled on the play while looking for a short piece to perform at the Prithvi Carnival. She was so moved by the script that she decided to perform it solo as a full-length production.  Once, speaking about 9 Parts of Desire , directed by her mother and stage actor Lillete Dubey, Ira had said, “It is a feminine, not political point of view on war. The play is special because it is about nine Muslim women who have lived in times of conflict.”

Ira acknowledges that performing for 75 minutes is mentally and physically exhausting, and the character Ira identified with the most was Layla, the artist.

“She is based on an actual character, an artist who was favoured by Saddam Hussein’s regime and had painted portraits of Saddam. Being an artist myself, I could relate to her. She is the pivot of the play. She is a very powerful character. There is another woman who tends to a bombed shelter which was bombed by the Americans. Another character is of a little girl who speaks innocently about her father, which gives him away and leads to him being eliminated,” Ira said in an interview with the Hindu magazine.

Getting the accent right was the biggest part of the performance, says Ira, who watched the documentaries by  American journalist Hugh Sykes who has done a retrospective on the ten years since Saddam Hussein was captured. She listened to the accents of everyday people living in Iraq, seeping herself in the culture.

The set design so powerfully depicted the soul of the play, it reflected so well the idea of war torn Iraq, and the lighting man [unfortunately the organisers didn’t think it important enough to have the names of the cast and stage crew printed on the programmes or on the back of the invitations,] so whoever the director of lighting was, hats off to you for pulling off the intricate lighting arrangements with under 27 lights, so I heard.

And in its essence, what do these 9 women, these 9 parts of desire thirst for ? Is it Peace they are searching for, like the restless, much married Bedouin woman? Is it solace and healing for the Mother of Tomorrow? Is it freedom of speech, expression and the right to think your own thoughts like the Communist and the Artist? How many roads must a woman walk down… how many ears must one man have before he can hear them cry?

 [The Play was presented by east and west Educational Society, and supported by Hotel Maurya, Patna  , BSN, Women’s Development Council, Bihar, and Sudha Diary. Director: Lillette Dubey. Performed at Premchand Rangshala, Patna, Bihar]




Share Button
Posted by on April 6, 2015. Filed under Bihar,Breaking News,MEDIA,Theatre. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login