NOVEMBER 2009: sabina england
Shashwati Talukdar talks to playwright Sabina England


Sabina England is a young and upcoming playwright, screenwriter and fiction writer. Her play, How The Rapist Was Born was recently performed in London. The description for the play reads, "Charley is the daughter of a notorious rapist. When she grows up she wants to be just like her daddy… She hates herself. She hates everyone. She probably hates you too."

Q-What is your writing process? do you do an outline first, or just jump into doing a first draft?

A- When I have ideas for a new stage play or short story that I want to write, first I like to create the characters. The most important part of writing scripts is to understand your characters first and foremost, it doesn't matter if you don't have an outline or a plotline yet. If you mold and understand your characters inside and out, how they will act and respond to situations, then your characters will determine the outcome of the story for you. So when it comes to writing, I don't come up with stories, I come up with characters. People are very interesting and always have an interesting story to tell, it's just a matter of who'll listen to them.

What is it about violence that moves you to use it so often in your work?

To be honest, I have never thought about how violence is portrayed in my plays... I insert violence here and there because it makes sense in my stories. Violence is something that just happens, it's a part of life. I don't think violence is funny at all. I've never laughed at violent scenes in movies. Many times I'd look away, but sometimes I view violence as romantic and heroic. An example would be Travis Bickle from (the film) 'Taxi Driver.' The thought of storming in with a gun and shooting a pimp dead, blowing his brains out, just to save a little girl from prostitution, it's a very romantic idea. I like it.

Some people have told me that I'm too obsessed with violence, while others have complained that I write about sex too much. Maybe I am obsessed with sex and violence, but they are the two most important ingredients in our lives. They make the world go round on wheels everyday.

Q-Would you agree that all your work expresses anger?

A-Yes, almost all my plays have a sense of anger and rage in them. I'm not some ignorant woman living in fake bliss. If you wake up and realize how the world really works, you'll be paranoid and never feel happy . I'll never live my life in blissful ignorance. Anger is my sense of feeling aware of what's going on in the world. Anger reminds me to never feel apathy for other people's suffering. Anger is what keeps my soul alive.

My grandma said that I was born angry and I was a very angry child growing up. As a teen, I was always told by people that I had too much anger and that it'll destroy me someday. Today, at 26 years old, I still get that bullshit from people, its ironic that Americans think "angry women" need help, while angry men are seen as strong, passionate, and heroic. Yes. I am angry and I'll always write about angry, furious, lethal women in my plays, stories and scripts. I will never stop feeling angry, because that's just who I am. My grandma even said that I'm probably going to die as an angry woman someday. I've always loved Goddess Kali and Durga and admired them. Kali gives me a sense of empowerment. Whenever I read stories about her in battle destroying demons, it gives me hope that I'm a strong woman and I can destroy anything that stands in the way of living my life. In fact, I'm wearing a necklace with a Kali pendant right now.

Q-Do you consider yourself a feminist?

A-I am a feminist and i am proud of it. Many people assume that feminism is for women's rights, but that's not what it means to me. Feminism is for equal rights and fair opportunities for both women AND men. Feminism recognizes that men have rights and needs that are equally important to women's rights and needs. Men, just like women, can also suffer from sexism and hetero-normative standards. From birth, many boys are expected to act macho and to play sports, but what if they don't want to? Society automatically labels them as "faggots" and "queers." So there you have it-- feminism is necessary for both women AND men-- it's there to fight sexism and to bring progress and equality for both genders.

But feminism is still highly relevant for WOMEN, because women are still not equal to men in some parts of American society. Women are still very much far behind men in some career fields, such as the entertainment business in Hollywood. I don't need to tell you that there is a huge lack of successful, powerful, well-known female film directors and screenwriters. Major studios are afraid to go ahead with unique, interesting films that have strong female characters. They would rather produce 10 cliched gangster films with all male casts than buy one solid script that has a strong female leading character

Q-You often criticize Western feminists, what is it about Western feminism that you find objectionable?

A-I hate how some Western feminists (especially the White privileged ones) always try to fight everyone else' battles. A lot of Western feminists tend to get offended over almost anything controversial or politically incorrect. As a playwright, this really pisses me off. I have been accused of being misogynistic and a woman-hater by these feminists because of the way some females are portrayed in my work. I consider myself an Equal Opportunity Offender. I like to mock, insult, and taunt all groups, ranging from retarded people to Muslims, from gays and lesbians to White Christian rednecks. Hell, feminists will even get offended if you make fun of fat people in one story and then in the next story if you decide to make fun of skinny people. Well, (expletive) them! I'll write what I want and I'm not gonna let a bunch of privileged white feminists tell me that I have to be politically correct just so we can all pretend to live in a fake polite society!!!

Q-How does being an Indian American affect your work?

I portray South Asians as real human beings in my plays. They are not caricatures to be mocked and to be laughed at like Hollywood is so fond of doing. There are many Indians on American T.V shows, but they are seen as a joke. I'm sick of it.

The kind of racial issues I write about in my plays are identity issues that South Asians (especially Muslims) struggle with. Being American, being Muslim, being Indian/Desi, it's complex. It has gotten worse after 9-11. Suddenly, Indian Muslims and Desi Muslims were put in a glaring spotlight, set apart from Hindus and Sikhs. Before 9-11, as an Indian Muslim, I always considered myself as an equal with Hindus and Sikhs, even though India is a Hindu majority nation and many Americans always thought that all Indians were Hindu (which isn't true, obviously). As an Indian Muslim, I never thought much about our religious differences, but not anymore after 9-11. They're not the ones having their religion scrutinized, while we Muslims are constantly watched and analyzed everyday on the news. I began to feel more empathy for Arabs and Middle Easterners, who I used to ignore before. Now, we were all the same. All brown people were automatically slumped into one group. Afghans, Pakistanis, even Hindus and Sikhs, were falsely classified as the "same" as Arabs, Persians, and Middle Easterners. It's infuriating to me, because we are NOT the one and the same. Some of us are atheist and don't give a (expletive) about religion. Others hate our families, which is a taboo in Desi culture because family is so important in Indian society.

It's different for people living in India. I have met many Indians from India who are independent and live on their own terms. But that's because they lived in India. They didn't face the pressure of holding onto cultural, religious, or family values in a White Man's society. There was no cultural baggage for them. I've always felt that if I was born and raised in India, I would be a very different person from who I am, being born in England, raised in the UK and USA. Sometimes I feel like I overcompensate just to prove to everyone that I AM Indian and that I'm not some washed up ABCD suburban brat who can't read/write Hindi and doesn't know anything about Indian history. But I wish I didn't feel that way. I DONT want to give a shit about being Desi, but I do. I'll never be free, because I'll always be a prisoner of my own guilt, my own worries. Oh yeah, there's also that part about trying to make my parents happy, too. My mum always complains that I act and dress too "White," I can never make her happy. My father thinks the same, too. I wish I didn't give a shit, but I do.

Shashwati Talukdar is a filmmaker and writer and can be contacted at http://fournineandahalf.com/





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