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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Performing Women/ Performing Womanhood: Theatre, Politics, and Dissent in North India

Book: Performing Women/ Performing Womanhood: Theatre, Politics, and Dissent in North India
Written by: Nandi Bhatia
Published by: Oxford University Press (2010)

In ‘Performing Women/ Performing Womanhood: Theatre, Politics, and Dissent in North India’, author Nandi Bhatia tries to critically examine the work of women theatre practitioners who challenged familial, nationalist and reformist ideologies. Set against the backdrop of social reform movements, political shifts before and after Independence, cartographic changes with the partition in 1947, and the public unrest in post-Independent India, the book foregrounds the relationship of women to theatre produced within the context of anti-colonial struggles, caste-class orthodoxies and immobility. It also investigates women’s responses to ‘intersecting nationalist, colonial, and patriarchal discourses’ (p.11). By engaging in textual analysis, alongside in-depth readings of archival documents like, reviews, and interviews, the book examines and uncovers the links between gender, colonialism, nationalism, political dissent, and theatre. Bhatia focuses on Premchand’s story ‘The Actress’, films ‘Teesri Kasam’ and ‘Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hu’, plays by Rasheed Jahan, Ismat Chugtai, Kusum Kumar, and Tripurari Sharma, and theatrical contributions by Zohra Sehgal and Sheila Bhatia to critically explore such gendered dimensions of modern India theatre.

The book tries to shed light and bring “visibility to the work of women who performed on the borderlines of dominant theatrical activity and engaged in dramatic enactments that contested middle-class codes of female propriety, which became normalized in the national popular consciousness. Additionally, it analyses the works of individual playwrights in order to evaluate their contribution to the making of what Mary Brewer calls ‘modern womanhood by virtue of facilitating the propagation of feminist values, the translation of feminist images into social behaviour, and the breakdown of sex-role stereotypes’.” (p.13)

Performing Women: Performing Womanhood- Theatre, Politics, and Dissent in North India