Tara: A Play in Two Acts

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Orient Blackswan, 1995 - 61 pages
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PURGING THE PERPETRATORS OF PATRIARCHY‘‘Forgive me, Tara. forgive me, for making it my tragedy". The line brings forth the leitmotif of Mahesh Dattani's two-act drama, Tara to the fore. A self-confession by Dan alias Chandan is a testament of rank practices of male-chauvinism stands exposed in the play. Broken in spirit and contrite, as it were, he offers an apology on behalf of the callous system represented by individuals of both the sexes for making his own tragedy by being inexorably, if not inexcusably, cruel to a little girl child. He has to bear brunt of the somebody's wrong-doing! But one has to undergo the purgatory to absolve oneself.
The plot though seems complex owing to the technique, is simple.Tara and Chandan were Siamese children. Tara's future is foredoomed by virtue of her gender. They are joined at the hip and have to be separated surgically. They have got only three legs and one of them has to forgo the leg . Though the girl has bright chances, she is denied of the leg against the better judgement of everybody as their mindsets - the doctor, the parents - are plagued by the parochial logic of patriarchy that male-child will better their lives. Her mother, Bharathi, knows the travails of a physically handicapped girl. She knows the hardships a girl child might face in the event of her physical deformity thrusts upon her and knows that the leg legitimately belongs to the girl child. But she has not not the temerity to stand out and cry hoarse: " This is unpardonably wrong; let the better one has better prospects of survival". She says:
``It`s all right while she is young .It`s all very cute and comfortable when she makes witty remarks .But let her grow up .Yes ,Chandan the world will tolerate you. The world will accept you- but not her! Oh! The pain is going to feel when she sees herself at eighteen or twenty .Thirty is unthinkable and what about forty and fifty! Oh, God ! The girl is precocious but her physical handicap keeps on denting a scar, the lesion on her mind throughout her little life. Given the opportunities, she can outshine everybody as her name denotes. But she cannot as she has the destined life of stunted and dwarfed growth. Even the alter ego of the girl, he brother Chandan, now a playwright, cannot exorcise the baneful past . His very survival stands out conspicuously symbolizing the gross injustice meted out to the "othered" - the girl-child though he is not a party either in the perpetration or perpetuation of the patriarchal practices. Chandan is unlike the stereotyping of Man who endures pain as an undeserved punishment; woman accepts it as a natural heritage. Therefore, the history is her story, pathetic and cathertic. As you probe it stark reality slaps in your face that men monopolize most of the so-called sensible thinking patterns depriving women of their rightful share of opportunities for incompetence.
Who should be brought to the scaffolds? The accountability of the society at large apart, some are quick to say it is Bharathi letting others impinge on the legitimate rights of the girl-child to live happily. But Bharathi is a hapless victim as evidenced at the outset - complacently confining to Home - "a cave" while the menfolk are out on the prowl on the hunting mission. A prisoner to the past as she is, she cannot act out on her own since the dead-weight of tradition is too much with her. It is "a system of systematic discrimination against and oppression of women", assert the gender-feminists. Words are not suffice to descant upon the barbarities committed against the womenfolk - mothers,daughters, wives. The play seeks to purge the scum layered in the mind in many-folds. It effects catharsis like a typical Aristotlean tragedy cleansing us of the dross. As we run through the drama, we can experience Dante's Purgatario - Dattani takes Dantesque task upon himself with a vengence!

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