REMEMBER RAAVAN'S WIFE
Playwright Shomshuklla's short play Mandodari, staged in Delhi, brings to life the mythological character of Raavan's wife Mandodari, and explores her inner world.
Raavan's wife, did you ask? Yes—not Kareena Kapoor from Ra.One, but Mandodari, the wife of Raavan from the Ramayan. Like many other female figures from the epics, she's a neglected character, and hardly ever the subject of discussion or art. But Shomshuklla, artiste and theatre person, and her company Kali Theatre, dug Mandodari out of her near anonymity and brought her into focus as a flesh-and-blood woman in Mandodari, a short play staged at a theatre festival called Short and Sweet in the capital.
At this festival of 'little plays', each presentation was no more than 10 minutes long. In that time, Shomshuklla presented a woman who lived an epic life but had ordinary passions and preoccupations. Acted by debutante Nandita Mahadavia, Mandodari is a monologue, in which the wife of Raavan reveals herself to be a sharp, intelligent woman, who surprisingly has none of the anger and despair you'd expect from the wife of a man who'd kidnapped another woman and brought her to his queen's palace. In fact, she's aware that her husband is desirable and has the vitality of a much younger man, so she finds it natural that other women would find him attractive. At the same time, she has the arrogance and natural strength of character that makes her intrinsically royal, and she knows it. She knows that her husband might have many dalliances, but will always return to her, his queen.
"I do pick up women characters from mythology — real characters, mythologised and glamorised for people's benefit. They're not created from my imagination - they actually were there," says Shomshuklla. "When I started to , think about this play, I started to think of what to talk about. I do psychological plays, and I've tried to explore how that woman would think. That's the twist — when Mandodari expresses sympathy with the kidnapped Sita, or when she wonders why women act so pious when they too desire other women's husbands! I feel that the time has come for women not to play safe — to say whatever they want to say, and get away with it, because they know who they are at this point." In her play, Mandodari is a practical woman unafraid to face the truth. "I've taken it from the realm of the sacred to the plane of the ordinary — like when Mandodari exclaims that if she were Sita, she wouldn't sit around and mope, she'd organise a nari mukti morcha! Mandodari was graceful, so she was forgotten. It's like Rakhi Sawant — if you're 'ungraceful', you're remembered," says Shomshuklla, laughing. "Bad news is good news, because then people notice."
Shomshuklla also does most of the work on her plays herself, including the costumes and the sets. "I always do my own costumes. Here, Mandodari was dressed in contrasting colours - a brown skirt with a blue dupatta, hot pink heels and a maang tikka. I wanted to break the mould with lots of colour. I've just returned from Edinburgh where we staged my play We Draupadi's And Sitas, and I had a lot of textiles in that, which they raved about over there. India has a lot of textiles, and we should enhance that," she concludes. View Original Article