Journal article / Redefining Feminine Performance in a Contemporary Kathakali Play

Madhavan, Arya. ‘Redefining the Feminine in Kathakali’. New Theatre Quarterly 35, no. 2 (May 2019): 169–86.
Abstract (edited): In this article, Arya Madhavan examines the significance of the female protagonist Asti from the new Kathakali play, A Tale from Magadha (2015), in the four-hundred-year-old patriarchal history of Kathakali.

The play is authored by Sadanam Harikumar, a Kathakali playwright and actor, whose contemporary retelling of Hindu myths and epics afford substantial agency to the female characters, compelling a radical reimagining of Kathakali’s gender norms and a reconsideration of the significance of female characters, both on the stage and in the text. Asti unsettles the conventional norms of womanhood that have defined and structured the ‘Kathakali woman’ over the last five centuries.

Although several new Kathakali plays have been created in recent decades, they seldom include strong female roles, so Harikumar’s plays, and his female characters in particular, deserve a historic place in the Kathakali tradition, whose slowly changing gender norms are here analysed for the first time.

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Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGroup

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