‘Akshayambara’ is an experimental Kannada play that uses both modern theatrical tools and the dance drama form of Yakshagana to create a contemporary narrative that raises questions on female representation and male ownership. The play was developed through the INLAKS Scholarship ’14, supported by the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) and premiered at the Ranga Shankara Theatre Festival ’15. The play won the best original script and best actor (male) at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) '16.
What happens when a woman enters the professional space of a dance form performed by men for the last 800 years? Drawing from research and personal experience, the performance imagines a reversal of roles in the popular Yakshagana plot of ‘Draupadi Vastrapaharana’. A veteran male artist in streevesha (female disguise) plays the virtuous Draupadi, while in a tradition-defying move, an amateur woman is cast as the chief antagonist, Kaurava. When tradition allows a man to play a woman will the same tradition accept the reverse? How does her entry redefine who is man and who is woman, who wields power, who is hero and antagonist, victim and perpetrator? How far will the traditional boundaries be pushed when an outsider enters the inner circle? What will be its consequences? The performers confront these questions as they shift between stage and green room, between male and female, stage and reality, personal and political, their tussle offering radically new perspectives on tradition, gender, power and morality.
This project is made possible by a grant from India Foundation for the Arts with part support from Voltas Limited. Since its premiere, the play has toured extensively within Karnataka and has also performed in several national and international theater festivals.
The play is performed in Kannada with English Subtitles.