#Showbiz: Gripping tale of child marriage

A new play by producer and playwright Fa Abdul delves into the poignant narrative of a stolen childhood, where dreams clash with harsh realities in a remote village.

Titled 'Leela Jhansi', the production also explores the ethical dilemma surrounding child marriage.

The story follows 13-year-old Leela, a spirited girl with aspirations as vast as the open skies above her, who yearns for education and the promise of a better future.

However, her innocent dreams are shattered when the wealthiest man in the village proposes marriage, not out of love, but as a transaction for his own gain.

Caught in the crossfire of familial obligation and societal pressure, Leela's father grapples with the moral dilemma presented before him.

"On one hand, he sees an opportunity to elevate his family from poverty, securing a life of comfort and stability through this alliance.

"On the other hand, he is faced with the stark reality of sacrificing his daughter's childhood, her dreams and her right to choose her own path in life," said Fa, who wrote the original play.

She is also director of the show from Big Nose Productions, which is set to be staged at Auditorium A in Komtar, Penang, from May 3 to 5.

As the village buzzes with gossip and anticipation, Leela finds herself becoming a pawn in a game of social status and financial gain.

Despite her tender age, she is forced to confront questions of agency, autonomy and the fundamental rights of a child.

Is marrying off a child ever justifiable, even in the face of dire circumstances?

Where does the line between tradition and exploitation blur, and who ultimately pays the price for society's skewed priorities?

"The play 'Leela Jhansi' weaves a narrative that challenges notions of morality and tradition, urging the audience to confront the uncomfortable truths that lie beneath the surface of seemingly innocent customs.

"Through Leela's courageous journey, the story poses questions about the value of a child's innocence, the importance of education and the power dynamics that govern our society.

"It is a tale that resonates far beyond the confines of its setting, offering a poignant reflection on the universal struggle for dignity, freedom and the pursuit of one's dreams," she said.

Fa said she wrote the play in 2020.

"It was planned to be staged in May 2021, but was scrapped due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.

"Despite the lockdown and cast members relocating amid the chaos, the team remained steadfast in their commitment to bring the powerful narrative to life.

"Over three challenging years, they persevered, adapting to the evolving landscape of the performing arts industry amid uncertainty.

"After three long years, we are ready to unveil this gripping tale. 'Leela Jhansi' is my best work to date," she said.

The lead role of 'Leela Jhansi' is portrayed by Chrisalynn Lim, known for her prowess in spoken word poetry, acting and dance.

Alongside her, 77-year-old Lucille Dass takes on the role of Leela's grandmother, Dadi, bringing decades of experience and expertise to the stage.

Stepping into the shoes of Palwankar, Leela's father, is Sidhart Joe Dev, a rising star known for his award-winning performances and talent as an actor, playwright and director.

The cast also includes Suresh Ramskay as Leela's husband Damodaram, Monica Mohan as Ram Rati, Ivan Gabriel as Manju, Billy Aurelia Ooi as Rajbala, Sri Kugan as Kanshi and Menan Mohan as Bangaru.

'Leela Jhansi' is supported by the state government (the Chief Minister's Office), state Social Development, Welfare and Non-Islamic Religious Affairs Committee, Hin Bus Depot and Sekenet Penang.

Tickets to the play, suitable for audiences aged 13 and above, are priced at RM28 and are available at

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