Sheer perfection, is how I would describe the goosebump-inducing performance put up by dancer Mallika Sarabhai at the last session of KLF 2016 Day 2. With heart-wrenching expressions and extreme grace, she narrated stories and left the audience spellbound. She certainly struck a chord with her audience by switching between several characters within a matter of seconds with incomparable poise.
The live vocalist and musicians aptly complemented the meaningful Search of the Goddess.
Mallika Sarabhai’s projection of “Stri Shakti- In Search of the Goddesses” took an intensely critical approach towards the representation of women in our dharma. While the audience kept their eyes fixed on her till the end, she divulged herself into the portrayal of goddesses in the most unnerving way.
She found herself contemplating the crucial roles played by Lakshmi who is the goddess of fortune, showcasing the liberation of power. Saraswati, the personification of knowledge, holding a book in one hand and Veena in the other is our own sketch of what virtue means in the Indian context. Ganga, unnoticed yet constant is the one to wash away our sins while Kali is the destroyer of demons. Even though we worship the goddesses but we contemplate their existence from the prisons of patriarchy.
Her portrayal of Draupadi gave a mortal perspective to the audience while defying as well as identifying the domination of the male in the form of husband, father, priest and the ruler. It was Draupadi’s swayamvara yet it was her father’s call. It was she who was to choose a husband yet it was her who was the prize of the male game. And as Arjuna established himself the suitor, yet it was Draupadi whose life was tied to an arrow and was sold to the killer of a fish, and like an object in the market, she was even split into five, “to each she gave a son, yet was the only wife of none”. Sarabhai deployed rhythm to draw home through Draupadi some often ignored arguments such as “Yes, Krishna gave me cloth but then where was Gita’s truth? Was it not needed then?” Draupadi learnt through her agony that power is the truth and Dharma, the darkness.
Meghna Roy, a member of the audience says, “What universalised this narration of an Indian text set eons ago from now is the vantage point which the performer chose to narrate from. The prism of Draupadi, the princess who was commoditized several times in a ‘male-stream’ world, appealed to me- a Draupadi who, while walking through dark alleys late at night, while watching a barely dressed model campaigning for a real estate company, or even while reading in textbooks that 928 is a “satisfactory” sex-ratio, has felt disgraced.
“Sati” who is supposedly the level of perfection for every woman born in the hollowness of our so called Dharma is portrayed as a virtuous wife of a man who was ready to sacrifice herself for her husband and in her name, thousands of young girls are pushed into the burning pyre of their husbands but little did the world ever think that Devi Sati Savitri exists because she challenged death, refused to give up and also won.
She painted a painting of a lion, with her feet, all while dancing to a song on Durga.When the canvas was held up, there wasn’t a single soul in the auditorium, who wasn’t awestruck. We as an audience witnessed a lion (symbolic of the strength of the Goddess) before us.
No doubt the performance received a standing ovation from the entire house which, I am sure, like me, will take home an inner speculation in Search of the Goddess.
This post has been compiled by Trisrota Dutta, Meghna Roy and Rupsha Bhadra.