Mythili Prakash bedecked as young Yashodhara, longing for her lover, couldn’t have been replaced by anyone else

Indian heroines are some of the most under-studied and underrated community in world literary history. Whether mythological, historical, social or contemporary characters, very few of these women have been a subject for performing arts practitioners beyond the realm of feminist academia. Usually, they end up becoming a futile exercise in preaching to the converted.

However, playwright Gowri Ramnarayan in her contemplative best on the subject churned out an outstanding production around the life of Yashodhara’s feelings, viewing her as the first casualty of Buddha’s spiritual quest. Inspired by an ancient fresco of a blooming lotus from muddy waters at the Ajanta Caves, Gowri was supported in her thought-process by Bharatanatyam dancer Mythili Prakash and vocalist Amritha Murali. Premiering to a packed hall at the Epic Women conference organised by Anita Ratnam, the production, on Friday, at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, was yet another gem in the playwright’s crown.

The character of Yashodhara, in all its density has often raised curiosity among several litterateurs across the world. Gowri’s inspiration arrived from the writings of celebrated Hindi poet Maithili Sharan Gupta. Buddha, the enlightened one is captured eternally in an agnostic’s point of view for his inhumane attitude to his wife and son. What forced him to abandon them and slip out reticently one night en route to his own self-realisation? Was it selfishness or an act of utter severity in dealing with the woman who trusted him? Gowri, the Sutradhaar of the production began with posing thought-provoking questions on the self-indulgent nature of art and contemplating if it was a way to peek beyond the reality of life.

Mythili Prakash (currently training under Malavika Sarukkai) bedecked as young Yashodhara, longing for her lover, couldn’t have been replaced by anyone else.

Her involvement into the character displayed how she progressed as a dancer over time. An initial apprehension as to whether Carnatic music was the best idiom to deal with the poetry was eased by her remarkable abhinaya.

With her arms flung into the horizon and fingers flaming like a bouquet, Mythili’s subtle gestures reflected the profundity of the playwright’s thoughts as the narrative unfolded. At times when the music drowned out the lyrics, Mythili’s effortless portrayal of Yashodhara’s pathos overruled that, in fact turning it into a tear-jerker at several junctures. Interspersed with ample poetic layering and descriptive supplies, Gowri’s commendable effort sustained interest and the production inspired awe.

(Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a Culture critic)