Thursday, February 21, 2013

Five Lords, Yet None a Protector and Timeless Tales: Two Plays

Five Lords, Yet None a Protector and Timeless Tales: Two Plays
Saoli Mitra
Translated from the Bengali by Rita Datta, Ipshita Chanda and Moushumi Bhowmik
Foreword by Nabaneeta Dev Sen
demy octavo pb 274pp ISBN 81-85604-49-5 Rs 300 Apr 2006

The plays are one-woman performances, which look at the epic through a gender lens and throw a challenge to the audience.’ ~The Sunday Statesman, 23 July 2006

These two plays by Saoli Mitra, a veteran actress and dramaturge of the Bengali stage, are both based on the Mahabharata. The story of Draupadi is narrated in Five Lords, Yet None a Protector (Nathabati Anathabat). She was married to the five royal Pandava brothers and narrates her humiliation at the hands of the Kauravas, the cousins of her husbands and rivals for the throne. The second, Timeless Tales (Katha Amritasaman), is again set within the Mahabharata, looking at the destruction of an age and of a civilization.
The tragedy of the royal women, Satyavati, Amba, Ambika and Ambalika, the abducted princesses; of Kunti, Gandhari; Draupadi; Subhadra; and the young Uttara, continues to have bearings on our times. Both the plays are one-woman performances in the tradition of kathakatha, a rural Bengali genre of dramatized storytelling, and use live music, some of it played by the narrator herself. The apparent naïveté of the single woman’s voice in the play builds a relationship of collusion with the audience. Subverting traditional theatre of the Western type and by the gendering of the stories, Mitra’s plays test the audience’s views of ‘decorum’.

Saoli Mitra combines the diverse roles of actor, director and playwright in her person. She received the Ibsen Centennial Award in January 2006. Nabaneeta Dev Sen is a scholar and a writer; she was formerly professor, department of comparative literature, Jadavpur University. Rita Datta is a teacher and an art critic; Ipshita Chanda is professor, department of comparative literature, Jadavpur University; Moushumi Bhowmik is a singer, researcher and a composer.

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