Satinder Chohan’s Made in India will debut at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry on January 24. Presented by London-based company Tamasha, in association with York-based Pilot Theatre, the play will explore birth and motherhood against the back drop of India. Village girl Aditi has come to a surrogacy clinic to offer her services, hoping to find her way out of poverty. Londoner Eva has travelled thousands of miles for her last chance at becoming a mother. Dr Gupta is there to run a clinic and offer just another “transaction”.
The play comes as, just last year, the Indian government unveiled plans to ban commercial surrogacy. In the UK, it is currently illegal to pay a surrogate anything other than expenses; but in India, commercial surrogacy is rife, with surrogates being offered far more than a reimbursement of medical expenses. The industry is worth around $2.3b; India is not called the “surrogacy hub” of the world for nothing.
Surrogacy is a hot topic. It is often debated in current affairs and plays a significant role in daytime television. It is a provoking topic for any playwright to research, record and give to a director to put a performative spin on it. It is a matter of great human interest to imagine what it feels like to carry a child that will never be your own. We all want to be a part of something that we will probably never personally experience – as is indeed is a reason for the existence of theatre in the first place.
But the desire to understand the unknown ties itself to the challenge of awareness. Surrogacy is not a universal experience: Surrogate A will not experience the same physical, emotional and mental trials as Surrogate B, who may be on her second or third birth. What Made in India will face is the difficulty of voicing these concerns, as it presents just one surrogate character. In the space of two hours, how are we able to get to the depths of the burdens Aditi will face if she is to go ahead with her plan? With three perspectives to voice in the short space of a play, it will be of interest to know what Chohan has chosen to demonstrate through Aditi as her understanding of “renting a womb”.
Alongside the struggle to voice this disparate female experience are multiple other issues that are set to arise in Made in India. Poverty, race and the single parent will all be played out to an audience from three differing perspectives. Whilst deciding whether Aditi’s choice to remove herself from poverty via surrogacy is a wise decision, we will also be left to question why a white British woman has brought herself to the third world to “rent” an Indian woman’s womb.
Choice looks set to be the central theme of Made in India. Dr Gupta’s preferred expression of “transaction” will no doubt be challenged by audience members who choose to consider the emotional depths of surrogacy. Aditi’s claim that because it is her body, it is her choice will no doubt be put into dialogue concerning gender, poverty and the freedom to make choices in inescapable circumstances. Likewise, Eva’s decision to meet Aditi will mirror this, questioning how when circumstances are easily escapable, why we choose to remain.
Whilst I look forward to seeing Made in India, I am aware of the impossible challenge it faces of voicing numerous disparate perspectives. As with any play looking to portray a hot, current topic, Chohan’s choices will no doubt be analysed alongside her characters. There is no right or wrong way of voicing the experience of surrogacy for those involved in the process, but there should be an awareness of the complications of this. Just as surrogacy may not be a simple transaction, performance is not merely a transaction of one playwright’s ideas to an audience. And Made in India will most certainly not be a simple “transaction”.
 BBC News, ‘India unveils plans to ban surrogacy’. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-37182197