JustUs Repertory’s new production rediscovers Sita, the Aryan princess
Gowri Ramnarayan is quite clear: Sita is a character that’s been done to death. “Mainstream traditions have reduced her to a puppet, but there’s so much more to her. She is an Aryan princess who showed survival strength in Ashokavanam, counselled Lord Rama whenever she felt he needed it, and argued with and rejected Ravana, one of the most powerful kings of the time,” begins the playwright-director.
When scripting her latest production, Aham Sita (I am Sita), Ramnarayan was also swayed by folk traditions and 20th century women poets like Indumati Kaushik and ‘Ambai’ CS Lakshmi, who see her as a figure of resistance. “In Kaushik’s work, Asveekaar, Sita rejects Rama, while in Ambai’s Crossing the River, she is determined to live life on her terms and create a rajya of her own. I found that very interesting,” she says.
The big five
The one-and-a-half hour production explores five crucial moments in Sita’s life: when she falls in love; asserts her will and insists she’ll accompany her husband on vanavas (exile to the forest); her life in Ashokavanam; her counsel to Rama not to fight the rishis’ battles; and finally, when she says enough is enough. “I dropped Ravana’s abduction because I don’t think she was as shattered by that as she was when Rama spurned her after the war,” says Ramnarayan, adding that she has also explored how the other women from the Ramayana—like Urmila, Ahalya, Surpanakha and Mandodari—see her and react to her actions. “It is my interpretation of what they’re feeling and another way of looking at Sita from many perspectives,” she says.
Blending dance, music, dialogue and poetry, the production sees Vidhya Subramanian donning the role of Sita, Ramnarayan setting the scene with monologues and Nisha Rajagopalan exploring the character through music. “The dance, which also has elements of theatre, reflects Sita’s progression—not just through subtle costume changes, but also through movements and expressions,” says Subramanian, who found the experience cathartic as she had always struggled with the “concept of Rama as the perfect human, while this tells the story from the woman’s perspective”. For Rajagopalan, the challenge of bringing a character to life through music was the highlight. “We’re exploring various facets here too—from composing original music to adapting a Carnatic kriti, using poetry along with excerpts from the Ramayana and bhajans to tell the story,” says the singer, who signs off with the hope that they’d be able to take Aham Sita to other cities in the country.
On March 6, from 6.30 pm, at Bhavan’s Dr Preetha Reddy Auditorium, Mylapore. Free entry. Details: 9840089030
Surya Praphulla Kumar