The Courtesan as ‘Virangana’ in Contemporary Historical Drama

Nandi Bhatia

in Performing Women/Performing Womanhood

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780198066934
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199080076 | DOI:
The Courtesan as ‘Virangana’ in Contemporary Historical Drama

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This chapter examines Tripurari Sharma's San Sattavan ka Qissa: Azizun Nisa, a play that focuses on a courtesan from Kanpur who joins the fight against British forces in the 1857 mutiny. While the courtesan has been characterized in cinema and literature as a tragic figure, the role accorded to her in Sharma's drama represents an extraordinary theatrical gesture that foregrounds a shift from the private space of the salon to the male space of the battlefield. Placing the play against the context of courtesan culture, the political developments of the 1990s, and the framework of other dramatizations of female heroes of 1857, this chapter examines Sharma's drama as a site for reviving both a marginalized tradition as well as restoring the role played by courtesans in the historical uprising through its focus on the woman/dancer/soldier. The play disrupts historically dominant notions about women as ‘pure’, ‘weak’, or ‘submissive’.

Keywords: Tripurari Sharma; San Sattavan ka Qissa: Azizun Nisa; courtesan; women; theatre; 1857 mutiny

Chapter.  6341 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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