Talks, presentations and performances explore the significance of iconic women from mythology, history, literature and life.
As the December season begins to peak in Chennai, the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore, surrounded by flower sellers and small shops near the Kapaleeshwara temple, will set aside three days to explore Epic Women. Presented by Kartik Fine Arts in association with the Arangham Trust, the conclave is curated by dancer Anita Ratnam.
Through day-long conferences and evening performances, dancers, scholars and theatre persons will focus on the significance of epic women in myth, history, literature and life. Along with characters like Sita and Savitri, characters like Surpanakha (from the Ramayana) and Medea (from Greek drama) have also been included to challenge listeners.
A session on Epic Women of Indian Dance has Katherine Kunhiraman speaking on Rukmini Devi, Nandini Ramani on T. Balasaraswati, Padmini Chettur on Chandralekha and Sukanya Rahman on her mother Indrani Rehman. Andree Grau’s Mrinalini Sarabhai: Cosmopolitan Patriot and Epic Woman includes clips from a documentary on Mrinalini Sarabhai while Anusha Subramanyam presents Golden Peacock on Aung San Suu Kyi.
For Ratnam, the fact that the conclave will have six new works presented by dancers based in India as well as abroad is a significant achievement. The process of dealing with diverse performers from the classical, theatre, dance theatre and contemporary dance worlds throws new insights. “Understanding the creative and technical needs for each and offering a supportive structure for the performers is a vital part of any arts presentation,” she says.
New York-based Rajika Puri will present Eleni of Sparta: An Indo Greek Retelling in dance theatre style using storytelling while Preeti Vasudevan offers a contemporary dance theatre production in Savitri: Dancing in the Forest of Death. Mythili Prakash and Amritha Murali perform in Yashodhara, a Bharatanatyam dance theatre production directed by Gowri Ramnarayan and presented by JustUs Repertory. Chennai-based Bharatanatyam dancers Priya Murle and Srikanth Natarajan present Amba Shikhandi using Therukoothu and Stree Vesham to add another dimension to the tale of cross-gender revenge from the Mahabharata.
Koodiyattam performer Kapila Venu, theatre director and founder of Adishakti Veenapani Chawla and author C.S. Lakshmi come together for a panel discussion on Sita. Chawla, who is in the process of creating a new text on Sita, says she would like to present her thoughts even though they are exploratory and inconclusive at the moment. Her idea of exploring Sita’s inner landscape, based on the dramatically changing external environments she finds herself in at various points in her life, goes beyond the stereotypes of a traditional or feminist vision.
Other highlights include Dr. Ketu H. Katrak’s talk on Magical Connections among Women with Epic Passions: Medea, Lady Macbeth and Surpanakha and Ammu Joseph on Epic Women in Politics and Chitra Sundaram’s paper Stree-Dom: An Immaculate Conception on Arundhati (wife of Vasishta), and Penelope (wife of Odysseus).
When: December 21-23
Where: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai