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Hard-hitting Pink Sari is no Bollywood romp gets an exclusive look at rehearsals for Pink Sari Revolution, a hard-hitting take on the sexual abuse many women suffer in India, coming to the Belgrade Theatre in October.

This week I had the pleasure of watching just a glimpse of rehearsals for the Pink Sari Revolution - the play coming to the Belgrade on October 11. And I can warn potential audiences right now: This sure isn't Bollywood.

The harsh reality is that somebody is raped in India every two minutes.

But nearly 40 years ago, in a remote village in Uttar Pradesh province, a fierce, uneducated girl, Sampat Pal, married off at the age of 12, began a grassroots revolt.

After leading a protest at the age of 16, she formed the Gulabi Gang - an organisation that today numbers 400,000 women - all dedicated to making a stand against the violence so many of them have experienced first hand.

The real Sampat Pal, now in her fifties, is both a controversial and heroic figure in modern India. And this play, currently under rehearsal at Leicester's Curve Theatre before transferring to the Belgrade, is based on a book about her life.

Director Suba Das, who travelled to Uttar Pradesh to meet Sampat,

told me: "People may not have a toilet in India but they will have a mobile phone and all know about the Gulabi Gang.

"Sampat is uneducated but incredibly intelligent. Some believe her methods have been ugly and unpleasant, I don't think so. Yes, she has been violent where she believes it has been necessary. But she also believes in love, and even presided over 200 non-arranged marriages."

The play has been adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Purva Naresh and stars film and Royal Shakespeare Company actress Syreeta Kumar in the complex role of Sampat.

At rehearsals in Leicester I was able to watch a scene showing just how adroit Sampat has become at manipulating the media to her own ends...or rather the ends of all women suffering oppression and violence in an India where the biggest slur to a man - scrawled on walls in towns and villages - is that he might be impotent.

So yes, there might be some singing and dancing in The Pink Sari Revolution, and definitely some lighter moments, but Bollywood, this isn't.

At the Belgrade they are inviting male and female members of the audience between October 11 and 21 to show their support of the Sari Revolution by wearing something pink on the night.

For tickets call the Belgrade on 024 7655 3055 or visit

Pictured (top) is Syreeta Kumar rehearsing the role of Sampat Pal, and director Suba Das.

*Portrait of a 'living icon' click here

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