FUTURE FOOTPRINTS: OBHIJATRA is an arts project to explore the concepts of androgyny and impersonation in theatre and has been conceptualized by interdisciplinary artist Sujoy Prasad Chatterjee.
The latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century was a period of transition when the public image of Indian womanhood was being crafted not only through literature and social experiments but also through the commercial media of the Parsi theatre and silent cinema. The female image presented perpetuated patriarchal control not only of the material female body, but of its visual manifestations too.
Sita, Draupadi, Subhadra, Damayanti and other heroines from epic and myth have long been celebrated in the visual and verbal arts and rightly credited with establishing gender roles for women in Indian society. But what did it mean when men played their parts, as was so often the case in pre-modern performance traditions? Were the paradigms of womanly virtue parodied by the cross-dressed actor, or did his masquerade contribute to the construction of a ‘powerful ideal’? How was the spectator’s gaze focused by the conventions of female impersonation? Such questions have rarely been asked, perhaps because they expose to self-conscious inquiry, a practice so ubiquitous and widely accepted in south Asia as to appear invisible.
Bringing such elementary questions into the limelight is what Obhijatra all about. The event is going to take place on 20th April.