Bengal`s folk theatre highlights strong women

Kolkata: It`s a women`s world for West Bengal`s jatra, or traditional folk theatre, this season as it gets set to showcase modern women tackle challenges and make their voices heard while retaining their core social values.

As tradition embraces modernity in the forthcoming season of jatras, women`s emancipation and empowerment form the highlights of the plays whose names are dominated by female characters.

Be it ‘Jayanti’, ‘Aparajita’ or ‘Debi’, all are championing the cause of women in a dignified and graceful manner.

Productions like "Ganyer meye Gonga (Ganga - the village belle)" and "Haar Maneni Aparajita (Aparajita soldiers on)" depict the protagonists` Ganga and Aparajita struggle and their ultimate emergence as powerful women.

"It deals with the struggles of the character Aparajita..she has to undergo a lot of emotional trauma and deal with societal problems to ultimately become an inspiration for all. However, she never loses her dignity," a spokesperson of Swarnadeep Opera that is staging the show told IANS.

Jatra is West Bengal`s traditional folk theatre form, a big draw in rural areas. It combines acting, songs, music and dance and is performed by troupes that travel from one place to another. Stylised delivery, exaggerated gestures and high decibel oratory are some salient features of the jatra.

Through the uphill climb, women are shown to possess the X-factor to walk the line, juggling family and professional matters.

This is the theme of "Madam X" brought to audiences by the Bishwabharati Opera.

"The protagonist, playing a journalist, represents the present modern women, balancing both personal and professional spheres with efficiency, despite facing obstacles aplenty, in both the fronts," director Anol Chakroborty told reporters.

In the wake of the spate of rape incidents in the state, Chakroborty has placed the play in a modern context - Madam X survives an attempt on her life because she protests against her cousin-in-law`s rape.

While Madam-X is busy fending off her detractors, Jayanti in "Joy-Jayanti" has a battle to win against leprosy - sans family support.

"Joy and Jayanti are siblings but the jatra revolves around Jayanti who is married off to a wealthy womaniser. At first, romance blossoms between the two but the husband takes to his old ways. Meanwhile, Jayanti gets afflicted with she rises up to the challenge as her family refuses to support her is the story," director Jhuma Mukherjee told IANS.

With the fair sex involved, can love be far behind? While some jatras portray women swimming against the tide to attain equal status in society, several plays have women pledging unfailing support and solidarity to their partners through thick and thin.

"Meghla Raate Sondhe Taara (Evening Star in Cloudy Sky)" centres on a love story between a poor boy and a rich girl which inevitably results in clashes between their families.

"It is a love story and it shows women can stand by their men in times of need," the organisers said.

With around a hundred jatras in the offing for the festive season, the spectators (from both rural and urban areas) are spoilt for choice.

Evolving to reclaim their lost glory in the entertainment industry, jatra organisers are now channelising the internet to promote the stream.

"A few years back, internet caused us a lot of loss...people stopped coming to watch jatras. But some of the plays are recorded nowadays and put on YouTube for the masses to watch. We are now using it to promote jatra," said a spokesperson of Star Opera.

Sahana Ghosh/IANS