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    Trisha Das’ new book adds to the many modern interpretations of Panchali’s story

    Whether as the wronged tribal woman in Mahasweta Devi’s story or as the vulnerable woman in a patriarchal society portrayed in Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel, Palace of Illusions, Draupadi’s story continues to inspire artistes through generations. Speaking about the resurgence of Draupadi in the arts with a recent viral of a short film and a book, theatre veteran Gowri Ramnarayan says, “She has been done to death and yet people find something new because she has that quality. When it comes to Sita there is only so much you can say but when it comes to Draupadi, she is so contemporary.”

    Culture icon
    Delhi Belly writer Akshat Verma’s short film, Mama’s Boys, a modern take on the Mahabharata, became an online sensation with actress Aditi Rao Hydari portraying Panchali. While Hydari’s sexually driven portrayal hasn’t gone down too well with the traditionalists, another recently-published book, in the same humorous vein, also attempts to put Draupadi in a modern context. Trisha Das’ Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas is about the four women from the epic—Amba, Kunti, Gandhari and the titular character Draupadi. In the book, they are given 30 days to visit Earth and have a second chance at life, before returning to heaven.

    The better half
    Speaking about her book and reinterpreting Draupadi in a contemporary context, the Indian National Award -winning documentary filmmaker says, “I have read many portrayals of her and I feel like she was a bit of a misfit in her times. She was a very  strong, independent, fiery, educated, intelligent woman and I feel like she was born in the wrong time.” Taking her inspiration from Marie Phillips’ Gods Behaving Badly, where Greek gods are placed in modern scenarios (goddess Aphrodite is a sex phone operator), Das, who is comedian Vir Das’s sister, says that Draupadi is now a symbol of empowerment as she stands out as this strong woman who has been disrespected many times—being made to marry five men, to being stripped in court. “I feel like right now, especially with the kind of country we are living in,  where there are so many issues with women, there is a need to have new references in popular culture and I think she fills that space,” the Singapore-based author concludes.

    Ms Draupadi Kuru: After the Pandavas published by Harper Collins. Rs 245. Details:amazon.in

    —Simar Bhasin


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