Katha is an Indian classical dance production which brings into life the tales of two of the most powerful women characters from two of India’s most poetic and epic mythologies, Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Gandhari, the wife who willfully chose to be blind so she could share the pain of her husband Dhritrashtra, the blind king of Hastinapura. She is known as an epitome of virtue, and is among the most respected moral forces in the epic Mahabaratha. She was fated to witness the death of all her hundred sons, during the Great War between them and their cousins. When her first born Duryodhana would ask for her blessing of victory during the Kurukshetra war, Gandhari would only say “may victory be where dharma (righteousness) is”. The audience will get to experience her trauma, devastation, clarity and strength in this performance.
Next Kaikeyi, the second of King Dasharatha’s three wives in Ramayana. She uses one of her two boons granted to her by the King to force him to exile her stepson Rama to the forest for 14 years and place her son Bharata on the throne instead. This dance performance will explore if Kaikeyi is really a selfish, cruel and foolish woman or is she a victim of a conspiracy and broken promises.
The pulse of this dance production is the shared passion of Namita Bodaji and Sandhya Manoj to honour and celebrate the power of choice in women, such as a women’s right to differ, to go against norms of society and do what she believe is best for her or her family. Stories of archetypal women from the epics unequivocally paints the ideal woman as the one who bears all traumas silently, and one who sacrifices her life for the sake of family, and typically runs totally second fiddle to the men.
“These two powerful women captured my imagination, and I would often think of them, and as an artiste I always cherished a yearning to showcase them. And then, as it often tends to happen, as though by coincidence, I got to meet Shrimati Namita Bodaji, a very established and respected Bharatanatyam exponent in Mumbai. From the conversations that ensued and as I shared these thoughts, it completely resonated with Namita ji, and before we knew it, we were already conceiving a production. We both then went through a period of research and contemplation that compelled our inner calling not to simply express the stories of these two women in the light by which they were typically projected in the research materials but present the psyche of the characters through a philosophical context,” Sandhya says.
Through her dance, Namita Bodaji as Gandhari will take you through all the aspects of the love of motherhood, helplessness, strength, wisdom and more. The saga of Gandhari was to be in the realm that she did not wish to be in. She who lived most her life in the shadow of dharma (righteousness) found her voice after she lost all her sons, by cursing the Lord Krishna himself in her agony. The strength in her sadhana (dedication) was manifested when her curse stood strong.
Both women, in their solo performances in Bharatanatyam and Odissi, respectively, share aspirations to inspire an alternative thought of the way society stereotypes a woman. In a direct sense to see and experience Kaikeyi and Gandhari differently, and in another sense, to connect to boldness, individuality and our own independence as women.
This unique and bold performance is scheduled for 8.00 pm on 1st April at the Temple of Fine Arts, Jalan Berhala, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets are available through Liitha Krishnan @ 0162203237