Geeta Chandran's interpretation of Gandhi
- Susan Visvanathan
Photos: Priyanka Dev

August 27, 2012

On August 17, I witnessed a lovely dance performance at the JNU Convention Centre sponsored by Indian Council of Philosophical Research, focussing on the life work of Gandhi. There was pin drop silence and a standing ovation for Geeta Chandran after the show.

Her performance was slow and meditative, a lovely courageous act, supportive of khadi and village life from one of India's best known artists. The designer, Sandhya Raman had created three simple costumes for her: the first in brilliant merged hues of magenta and other vibrant colours, the second costume was of white and a deep dark green, offset with indigo, and a third was pure white, with careful edging of handcrafted lace. The simplicity of the costumes offset the meditative aspect of Chandran's performance which was meditative and instinctive.

Many months of research led to the choreography of this dance drama called ‘Gandhi: Warp and Weft’ presented as part of Gandhirama festival. An upright charpai was sufficient cover for Chandran to change her costumes deftly, as the poor often do in their villages and shanties. The feminist courage of artists is distilled by a certain notion of honour and chastity, which by itself is disturbing in its profound ability to communicate that a society ridden by Draupadian or Seethain politics of obedience, honour and servitude is problematised by its very re-telling in new ways.

By using the context of women's daily chores such as cleaning, cooking, nurturing, feeding and weaving, Chandran moves it to the political ambit of dalit politics, by thematically spinning the narrative of sound, dance and music to the event of manual scavenging: a deft space where sorrow, victory and the impaling of human consciousness all combine. Post-modernity allows that moment of merging when time and narrative are merged in the same moment, where fusion is a syllable comprehensible across ages, whether it is a cry of pain, a political uproar, or a prayer.

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