Performance and Culture: Narrative, Image and Enactment in India

Performance and Culture: Narrative, Image and Enactment in India

by Archana Verma

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Overview

This book deals with various aspects of performance in India; especially that related to dance and dance-drama. Rather than being a description of the various dance forms of India, it attempts to discuss the social equations and cultural ideas that a performance attempts to portray. In this sense, a performance is a narrative. At the same time, performances also deal with well-known narratives from the religious traditions of India, often redefining and recounting them in the process of performance. A study of these aspects is important to understand the kind of equations that define these discourses on the performance narratives. Chapter I shows the different forms of dances that are described in the iconographic canons and also the famous dance treatise the Natyashastra, correlating them with the sculptures of dance available in the temples. Here, the temples of south India datable to 6th- 13th centuries have been studied for this purpose. Attempt is made to study the gender equations that are expounded through these dance images and texts, as also the correlation between the audience and the performance and how these ideas are intertwined with the religious images. Chapter II deals with four Sanskrit burlesque plays written in the ancient period, which reverse social equations and classical dramatic representations through the genre of satire. Almost every elite-class person, generally idealized in the classical Sanskrit plays, is lampooned here. Issues of audience perception and the reception of this kind of reversed images of the ideal figures of the society are discussed in this chapter. Chapter III deals with the aesthetics of eroticism that form the basis of many Indian classical dances, how they are intertwined with the notion of devotionalism in Hinduism and how they are negotiated in the Indian classical dances in our contemporary period. A case study is done here of Odissi, the classical dance from the eastern state of Orissa, which draws extensively from the temple sculptures of dance. Chapter IV shows that sacred narrative in India is not always a means of glorifying the divine. Rather, sometimes it is also used to satirize the established notions of religiosity and of divinity. This forms the basis of this very interesting semi-classical dance-drama form called Ottan Thullal from the southern state of Kerala. Kathakali, the classical dance-drama and Mohiniattam, the classical dance from Kerala have dominated the scene so much that this form of dance-drama has been overshadowed and it is little known to the world outside Kerala, even in India. There is not much scholarship on Ottan Thullal. This chapter deals with this form and the manner in which it uses the idiom of satire to narrate the religious legends. Chapter V is a study of the Mithila narratives from the eastern region of Mithila in Bihar to understand the ways in which gender equations in the Mithila society influence the making of these narratives. There is a discussion of the nature of folk narratives in this chapter. Chapter VI takes some folk forms of performance and visual narratives from different states of India to show how social equations such as power hierarchy, gender and caste dimensions are negotiated. All these use the traditional religious space to work out these equations. Chapter VII on one hand is a comparative study of two Hindi films made in 1960s, based on the lives of two women dancers from ancient India. One of them is a historical figure and the other is a figure. On the other hand, this is an attempt o show how the narratives of these women dancers are remodeled in literary as well as the cinematic medium, every time these narratives are retold. Effort is made to show how the cultural memory of the ancient history of India that the modern narrators of these stories have been received as a process of acculturation, which influences this recasting of narratives in literature as well as in film. It is also shown that this process of narration through cultural memory is not a new phenomenon, since it occurred even in the ancient period when narrative was being remodeled to present in a new form before the audience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781443827355
Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Publication date: 04/01/2011
Pages: 165
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Archana Verma has been a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, India, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, UK. She writes and teaches various aspects of South Asian Art.

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