K. Madavane’s The Mahabharata of Women, directed (in hindi) by K.S. Rajendran, essentially draws upon strong women characters from the age-old epic of The Mahabharata and deftly weaves them with a local legend from Tamil Nadu. Three contemporary nameless characters whose identity is established only through their relationship are Mother, Son and Sister. Mother narrates stories from the epic to Son and Sister, and while doing so, the characters from the epic come alive and tell their tales. The contemporary characters interact with characters from the Mahabharata, question their decisions and acts, and sometimes identify with their angst. Mother is also obsessed with the story of her ancestor, a young woman who was burned alive to save the honor of the family. She firmly believes that her son is the victim of this woman’s curse. Between the story of The Mahabharata and her own ancestor’s plight, Mother manages to put forward her own interpretation of the epic. The final scene of the play is particularly relevant in today’s context: the women condemn war and violence and its consequences. They lament the loss of their progeny and speak about the futility of war where victory has no meaning.
« While the ‘the notion of the date has hardly any meaning for an epic’ say Louis Renou, the well-known French Indologist, the inherent contradictions in Mother’s perception of time allow the enmeshment of time in MOW. Arguably this is a result of Mother’s ‘madness’ or senility but it also explains human strategies of comprehension. Often our perception of the larger is shaped by what is closer home, the smaller or the more immediate. The legend of the Young Woman essentially recalls the power of collective memory and imagination. The concept of framing the epic through Mother’s lens makes the MOW project a credible experience of art, Mother’s understanding of The Mahabharata being through her ancestral legend » (Vijaya Rao, Theatre India, N°12)
« In a way, Madavane’s play can be qualified as a ‘banyan text’ : all the stories, enunciations and characters seem to have intertwined roots ; each root is originally a branch and every branch ultimately becomes a root. All the stories are engaged in dialogue with each other, they question and respond as if they are all enboxed partially in each other thereby allowing integration and interpenetration. (Carpanin Marimoutou, , « K. Madavane’s Mahabharata des Femmes », in, Draupadi, Tissages et Textures, Ed., Valérie Magdelaine-Andrianjafitrimo, Editions, K’A, 2008, France)
« The Mahabharata of Women written …. By K. Madavane, is an extraordinary plays which captures the personality of Indian Theatre » writes Romesh Chander (The Hindu, 10th December 1999)
Madavane revisits the Mahabharata by placing women at the centre of events. They appear to be both catalysts and victims of each upheaval, which explains the title Mahabharata of Women. Straddling tradition and modernity, different ages, epochs and generations encounter each other in the play. This play has been translated into many languages both in India and abroad and has been well received wherever it was performed. An unconventional play with a coherent thematic structure, The Mahabharata of Women (MOW) dramatizes a strong confrontation between the characters within and outside the Mahabharata. Written originally for a foreign audience, the play has also won wide acclaim in India. MOW has been produced in French, English and German in Canada, France, India, Australia and Germany. The English version was published by Theatre India, National School of Drama. Here is a list of all the productions of MOW :
1995 Montréal, Canada – (in French). By UQAM
1999 – 2000, Delhi, Mumbaï, Bangalore, Inde – (in English) By Chingari
2001, Ulm, Karlsruhe, Allemagne – (in German) By Westhatache, Ulm.
2010 Hyderabad – (in Telengou) – By Nishumbita
2011 Paris, France – (in French) – By Au Fil des Diagonales.
2013 Melbourne, Australie – (in English) By Australia India Institute
2015 Udupi (Karnataka) – (in Kannada) By Rathabeedi Geleyaru
Madavane is invited for a public play reading (on 21st May 2016) in Czech Language in Municipal Theatre of Zlin (Czech Republic). The play reading will be directed by Tereza Rihova. The play has been translated by Zuzana Michkova.
This play will be also staged (May-June 2016) in French in The Réunion Island (France)