When Draupathy performs
May 31, 2004
seems to resurrect from the smouldering fire in the substratum of women’s
experience in India. The situation is horrific: sex-selective- abortion
among the affluent, female infanticide among the rural poor, eve teasing
in every form, dowry death, gang rape to settle scores, the old lonely
mother; the experience scalding. The girl child in India is born from fire,
the woman lives through fire, and her children lost in the battles of life,
the unwanted mother dies in icy indifference. It is the same tale retold,
countless times. The legend of Draupathy acquires the dimensions of a metaphor.
Ever since Mallika Sarabai introduced a feminist version of Draupathy in the eighties, women dancers have presented her born from the fire of Yaga as in the myth, passing thro’ the fire of unusual situations, with interpretive possibilities, living an ironical life in utter loneliness and finally dying in stony unconcern whence she is elevated to the status of a goddess. Draupathy handled by these artistes seems to have more theme than story. Of course each one of these dancers incorporate their own multi-shaded magic.
the mythical heroine is an archetype of Indian woman. She takes us back
to the days of the Vedas and Puranas when gambling and playing chathurangam
was the accepted game of politics. In an age when money was unknown and
wealth consisted of cows, horses and slaves, selling women as slaves was
common and they were teased and dishonoured without an iota of conscience.
King Harichandra, the champion of truth, sold his wife and son to keep
his word. Draupathy is the traditional self of Indian womanhood - a born
princess, born to rule, yet a slave to patriarchal societal demands.
of Chitra Visweswaran in her Chathurangam, the game of dice, projects Draupathy
against the backdrop of evil: an eternal theme of modern relevance.
The emphasis is on the game of dice that evokes political intrigues beyond
the barriers of time and place. The inter-play of good and evil that leads
to war is the highlight. Dancing from one corner to the other on
the stage, displaying the might of evil, anger, and spite, the dancers
recreate the dark world where all intrigues are born. The court and the
power struggle with all the political nuances evoke human history down
the line. In the modern presentation of an old theme, Draupathy is a powerful,
yet graceful woman asking questions about the moral right and wrong of
social customs, asserting her right to be an individual and her right to
individual choice. But all the notions of values are of no avail before
the selfish designs of the evil and its brute strength. The good takes
a beating. Truly, a predicament in which we are caught up in this post-modern
times! Only spiritual strength (Krishna) saves, after a lot of tragic loss.
It is as if we could learn only after a catastrophe. Though the old myth
is cast in a new light Krishna is still the God and intervenes in life.
The story remains within the traditional framework.
And it is another ironic situation in life that of all the brothers Bhim loves her best while she loves the distracted Arjuna unable to reciprocate Brim’s passion. The tender tale of the emotional bond between Krishna and Draupathy is a prelude to the help Krishna gives in her crises. Basically it is the metaphor of a woman’s love and faith. That Krishna is the manipulator with a hidden agenda, which Draupathy almost guesses is a postmodern thesis. After the war, Bhim brings the blood of her enemy to anoint her hair. Though her vow is fulfilled, she pays a costly price with the death of all her sons at one stroke - revenge for revenge! Wisdom dawns only when at the point of no return. She must have lived as a selfless queen after such bitter experience. She falls dead among the foothills of Himalayas highlighting the basic loneliness of life.
What does the repetition of the theme in art project? For women the world is still a fiefdom of intolerance and Draupathy is born again and again to spark the freedom struggle. The number of women activists who defy gang rape repeat the sorry plight of Draupathy. The violence against women in our public space, the civil society looking on failing to react, is nothing short of the re-enactment of the personal trial of Draupathy. Where is Krishna?
your teats to the men
Again, in a
feminist perspective human predicament can be overcome by an affirmation
of life. Never despair, we are still going thro’ a bad patch, Yes, we must
go on, awareness is crucial for the forward march. And women have to take
a decision, as to where to stand. The road is stony, dry without much promise
for the starry eyed before their life is to be cast differently, bravely,
Jayaraj is a regular contributor to narthaki.com.