Isheeta Ganguly's Sundays with Chitra & Chaitali to make its premiere in Chennai

Set to make its premiere in Chennai, as a part of ITC Grand Chola’s Welcome Theatre,  the four-actor-play uses the original tale from Mahabharata as well a

Fathima Ashraf Published :  16th November 2018 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  16th November 2018 06:00 AM

Still from the play Sundays with Chitra and Chaitali_(14)

The ancient tale of Chitra from the Mahabharata tells the story of Manipur’s warrior princess, who falls in love with the Pandava prince, Arjuna. Upon realising that Arjun scorns her for her masculine nature, she prays to God Madan to transform her into an ideal feminine princess, and after becoming one, goes on to marry Arjun. The story of Chitra was adapted by Rabindranath Tagore for his dance drama, Chitrangada, in 1913. The classic story is now getting a modern retelling through playwright-director Isheeta Ganguly’s musical theatre, Sundays with Chitra & Chaitali.

Still from the play

Set to make its premiere in Chennai, as a part of ITC Grand Chola’s Welcome Theatre (an initiative that has been going for the last 17 years), the four-actor-play, featuring one male and three female actors, uses the original tale from Mahabharata as well as Tagore’s adaptation. “I have always been interested in the women characters portrayed by Tagore in his literature. Mahabharata’s Chitra, after being transformed into a feminine beauty, doesn’t feel like herself and goes on to confess to Arjuna that she is the warrior princess of Manipur. Using a double narrative, I have brought Chitra’s story into a 2018 café where two women, Chitra and Chaitali, meet every Sunday, to discuss their lives and relationships,” shares Isheeta, who is an avid songstress of Rabindra Sangeet from the age of 15.

Isheeta Ganguly

While Chitra is more assertive and tomboyish, Chaitali has a very feminine character. Throughout the course of their conversation, Chitra blames Chaitali for being a pushover while Chaitali gives it back to her for being bossy and overbearing. Towards the end, the director brings a plot-twist in the narrative to make the point that although our society has progressed on many levels, gender stereotypes still exist. “The story actually deals with the various issues of gender and the general perception of what is masculine and what is feminine. The story conveys a message about accepting women for what they essentially are. The pressure we put on both genders to be a certain way is immense and such stereotypes, even though they are centuries old, remain even in the 2018 context,” says the 42-year-old director, who is based out of Mumbai.

The play lasting one hour and forty minutes, alternates between a 2018 café and the ancient forests of Manipur, and relies on screen projection for its backdrops. “Another specialty of the play is that Bollywood’s celebrated composer Pritam has put together the music for the play and I have sung the songs,” shares Isheeta, whose previous plays such as Three Women and Shakuntala Awaits are set to be adapted into movies soon. Having premiered in Mumbai last year, the team is now on its national tour and after Chennai, the show heads to Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

November 17, 8 pm. 
At ITC Grand Chola.

— Fathima Ashraf