Performing Women / Performing Womanhood

Performing Women / Performing Womanhood

Product ID: 30934

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Author: Nandi Bhatia
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Year: 2011
Language: English
Pages: 232
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780198066934


In the late nineteenth century, the presence of female actors on public stages was widely debated among middle-class people, theatre organizers, and social reformers and it continued to be discussed in subsequent decades. This book looks at women’s relationship to modern Indian theatre and how that relationship has been articulated in twentieth-century India.

Bhatia examines representations of female actors, housewives, dalits, and courtesans in literary, cinematic, and autobiographical texts and in plays and performances.

Focusing specifically on Premchand’s story ‘The Actress’, such films as Teesri Kasam and Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, plays by Ismat Chughtai, Rasheed Jahan, Kusum Kumar, and Tripurari Sharma, and theatrical contributions of Zohra Segal and Sheila Bhatia, the book brings out key moments of historical and socio-political struggle.

By tracing the effectiveness of theatre in foregrounding women who publicly challenged familial, nationalist, and reformist ideologies and confronted caste biases, the book demonstrates the radical potential of this genre in modern India.

The book engages textual analysis alongside examinations of archival documents, political statements, reviews, interviews, and journalistic debates, to demonstrate the deeply intertwined links between gender, colonialism, nationalism, political dissent, and theatre.


1. Constructing the Theatre Actress
2. Argumentative Women in Domestic Spaces: The Plays of Rasheed Jahan and Ismat Chughtai
3. Independence, Partition, and New Theatrical Imaginings
4. From Social Reform to Social Protest: Gender and Caste Politics in Kusum Kumar's 'Listen Shefali' (Suno Shefali)
5. The Courtesan as 'Virangana' in Contemporary Historical Drama: Tripurari Sharma's San Sattavan ka Qissa: Azizum Nisa
Epilogue: 'A Window into an Elegant and Colourful, but Almost Forgotten World'