West indian literature

The best feminist voices in Indian literature

Indian literature has a long history of powerful feminist voices like Savitribai Phule, Amrita Pritam, Ismat Chughtai, Krishna Sobti, Kamala Das and many others. In Zee Theatre’s anthology play “Womanly Voices”, director Lillete Dubey revisits some of the most memorable stories written from a female perspective. In the teleplay, the audience is treated to “Shishu” by Mahasweta Devi, “Uttran” by Wajida Tabassum and “The Teacher’s Story” by Gita Mehta. The stories, though set in different settings and time periods, connect us deeply to universal themes that continue to be relevant to this day. Starring Joy Sengupta, Suchitra Pillai, Pranav Sachdev, Ira Dubey, Deepika Amin and Adit Bhilare, the teleplay can be watched on Airtel and Dish Tv.
Here is an overview of the three offers:

“Shishu” by Mahasweta Devi
Mahasweta Devi, laureate of Jnanpith and Padma Shri, was the voice of the invisible tribals and the marginalized. She wrote fearlessly about discrimination and inequity and her works were steeped in social realism. In her short story, “Shishu,” she laid bare the horror of famine in a village where malnourished people were reduced to pygmies and only saw rice in their dreams. The deep ignorance, privilege and apathy that create situations like this are critiqued by the writer with unflinching honesty. This story continues to remind us of our inability to see beyond urban concerns to our fellow human beings who must subsist on the bare minimum as we consume more than we need.

“Utran” by Wajida Tabassum
Like Manto, Wajida Tabassum cared little for decorum when it came to exposing the repression, hypocrisy, and human frailties she saw around her. As one of the leading figures in Urdu feminist literature, Wajida, along with Ismat Chughtai, became known for her outspoken style of writing. One literary critic even called her sahib-e-asloob (A writer with a distinct voice). The erotic element in his stories has caused much controversy, and his choice of themes has been a hit on several occasions. In 1975, she wrote the Urdu story “Utran” which told how a submissive woman who was always given discarded clothes snatched away her autonomy and power with an unthinkable action.

“The Teacher’s Story” by Gita Mehta
Writer, documentary filmmaker and journalist, Gita Mehta has an incisive perspective on gender and class issues in India and her writings artfully depict how social constructs shape the personal destinies of individuals. In his book “River Sutra”, published in 1993, six different tales are connected by the thread of human emotions and the ebb and flow of the Narmada. “The Teacher’s Story” is about the power of music to transform human lives, and how, in a world without human tenderness, even a sacred bond between teacher and disciple can be destroyed by hatred. The story revolves around a music teacher who finds meaning and purpose in his desolate life by teaching a blind child. However, an inhuman crime puts an end to this beautiful relationship and the story ends with a reminder that to call yourself human, you must first learn to love more and hate less.


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