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Geeta Chandran presents
Simhika: Daughter of the Forest
Stein Auditorium, 7pm
August 6, 2022 New Delhi

July 21, 2022

Geeta Chandran presents her latest work SIMHIKA: DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST, a performance-dialogue on Saturday, 6 August 2022, 7 pm at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Simhika: Daughter of the Forest

The protagonist SIMHIKA is a fictional character created for a Kathakali dance-theater performance written by Kottayam Thampuran. In the original play Kirmira Vadham, the Kathakali narrative explores SIMHIKA's story vividly painting her as a rakshasi/demoness.

In her presentation, dancer Geeta Chandran invests SIMHIKA with voice and agency, unveiling the thoughts and conflicts in the protagonist through the process of anavarna, a technique in Bharatanatyam abhinaya, where layer after layer is unpeeled to reveal subtle truths. Geeta casts her as a woman, a wife, a nurturer, daughter of the forest who becomes a victim of circumstance.

The Forest also takes on multiple roles: sakhi/confidant, sakshi/witness; both nurturer and betrayer. And - like the audience -- the forest becomes a mute spectator to injustice and patriarchy. Simhika's transformation through the technique of rupantara is also a commentary on our contemporary times where we judge people based only on their outward physical appearance!

Simhika: Daughter of the Forest

SIMHIKA's is a tale of vengeance and revenge situated in treta yuga in which the Mahabharata is situated. Simhika, a forest maiden completely in sync with her environment, is cruelly widowed when the Pandavas, during their exile in the forest, kill her husband Shardula. Her sorrow soon morphs to revenge and Simhika transforms herself into a beautiful maiden - but with poison in her heart - and tries to trick Draupadi (wife of the Pandavas) into the forest with the aim of killing her. But here, the forest that has nurtured her, gives her away, and Draupadi cries for help. Her husband Sahadeva arrives and brutally defaces Simhika's body by chopping off her breasts. Simhika laments the injustices heaped on her, and this forms the theatrical focus of Geeta's powerful performance-dialogue.

The hour-long performance dialogue is situated in a theatrical set that resonates the forest setting. It has been crafted by Jugal Kishore Sharma and his team of traditional flower decorators from Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh.

The script has been adapted from Thampuran's original by Geeta Chandran and has been rendered in Sanskrit by A.R. Sreekrishnan.

The music scape for SIMHIKA has been developed as a combined effort of the dancer working in close communion with vocalist K. Venkateshwaran and percussionist Manohar Balatchandirane. Simhika's costume has been created by Sandhya Raman.

The research and creation of this performance dialogue SIMHIKA: DAUGHTER OF THE FOREST has been supported by a Special Project Fellowship to Geeta Chandran from WISCOMP (Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace.

Geeta Chandran
Geeta Chandran is synonymous with Bharatanatyam the classical dance that she has practised for 55 years since her journey began at the age of 5 under the tutelage of her first Guru Swarna Saraswati who hailed from the traditional daasi Parampara. Since then, her dance voyage has embraced intense learning under several stalwart Gurus. Geeta has imprinted Bharatanatyam with her unique personality where delicate shades of abhinaya are offset by extremely challenging nritta sequences. Her vast knowledge and training of Carnatic music further imbues her dance with a unique flavour.

Her inspired contribution to Bharatanatyam's pedagogy steeped in both tradition and modernity is widely acknowledged as a contemporary milestone in dance theory.

Geeta has fine-tuned the format of performance-dialogue in which she raises contemporary issues through her classical performances. Previous works like HER VOICE and IMAGINING PEACE raised issues of the meaninglessness of violence. KAIKEYI spoke about stigma and villainization. MYTHOLOGIES RETOLD addressed the issue of female feticide. In ANEKANTA, she highlighted the Indian Constitution's vision of an inclusive society. And GANDHI: WARP AND WEFT was a reminder of Gandhian values and choices.

Geeta Chandran is also celebrated for her Carnatic music (she is a trained and accomplished vocalist), her work in television, video and film, theatre, choreography, dance education, dance activism and dance-issue journalism.

She is Founder-President of NATYA VRIKSHA, the cultural organization that she founded in 1991. She is also Artistic Director of her NATYA VRIKSHA DANCE COLLECTIVE.

Among her honours and awards are the PADMASHRI (2007); the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (2016); and the Tagore National Fellowship (2018-2021). She is recipient of the NRITYA PERUNJYOTI 2020 title bestowed by ABHAI, the Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India. Geeta is also UNESCO's South Asia Advocate for Artists in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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