Chitrangada: A story of women’s individuality
Rabindranath's Chitrangada has mostly been adapted in dance-drama form, but theater troupe Swapnadal was adamant on narrating the mythological princess of the Kingdom of Manipur into a modern day 'jatrabala' styled drama for the audiences. Their unique adaptation of 'Chitrangada' caught the eyes of Asia's largest theatre festival, as they are all set to perform at 25th edition of Bharat Rang Mahotsav, Delhi on February.
"Our play, Chitrangada, is not merely a simple tale of love; it stands as a unique narrative of women's empowerment and individuality. Rabindranath Tagore's compelling story continues to resonate with audiences, touching the hearts of all who experience its production. Tagore penned the narrative in two distinct formats – one as a dance-drama and the other as a poetry drama. The dance-drama, enriched with soul-stirring songs, has gained widespread popularity worldwide. However, Swapnadal holds the distinction of being the first troupe to consistently organize the poetry-drama," said Swapnadal's director, Zahid Repon.
In 2011, On the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birthday, Chitrangada received a government grant which continues to mesmerise the audience.
This isn't the first time that Swapnadal's play will be shown at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav. Earlier, their drama Tringsho Shatabdi was also showcased at the festival in 2015. Zahid Repon and his team are super excited on showcasing Chitrangada for the Indian audience.
"We are thrilled that our play will be featured at Asia's largest festival. The festival invites numerous international troupes from around the world, selecting them based on video submissions. Out of nearly 300 submissions, only 11 international troupes, including Chitrangada, have been chosen. We are really happy that we will be performing in front of global audience," added Ripon.
Rabindranath Tagore penned the poetry drama of Chitrangada at the young age of 31, while the dance drama version was written when he was 75 years old.
"As a director, I wanted to give the production a touch of modern day jatrapala by placing the stage in the middle of the audience so that the audience can feel like they are part of the drama. We also had live music so that audience are completely entranced within the drama. We have withdrawn the essence of European drama, which is what caught the audience of organisers of the festival," said the director.
Chitrangada narrates the tale of a woman whose father raised her as a man, imparting skills of warfare. However, upon encountering Arjun, her suppressed feminine desires were awakened, leading her to be drawn towards him. Unfortunately, Arjun rejected her advances, finding her lacking in the idealized standards of beauty. Seeking transformation, she prayed to the goddess to become a beautiful woman.
Yet, Chitrangada soon found herself in a quandary, questioning whether Arjun was attracted to her newfound beauty or her true personality. In this drama, Rabindranath skillfully explores the intricacies of women's dignity and the complexities of personal identity.
"In the old format, Chitrangada was portrayed through one artiste but here we used two Chitrangada to showcase the struggles and dilemmas of her character. Audience could visually witness the internal conflict of Chitrangada as they battle with the idea of physical beauty and spirituality," added Repon.
Apart from Delhi, the festival will be presented in 13 other cities. Our performance is scheduled for Bhubaneswar, Odisha, on February 10, and at the National School of Drama, New Delhi, on February 12. Furthermore, our 103rd production of Chitrangada will be showcased on December 25 at Shilpakala Academy.