Shakuntala-Mira-Gandhari: arrows of desire inside the debris of time
By Mukherjee. P
What then is Shakuntala? Born out of an experiment of distraction. Named after a bird. Left on the earthly realms, because the mother (Menaka-the apsara) had to go back on heavenly chores and the dad (sage Vishwamitra) was too pissed at his loss of virtue. Raised by Kanva rishi on the banks of the Malini river. Later, a recipient of a rishi’s (Durbasha) curse; of a husband’s (Dushyanta) waylaid memory (or shall we say patriarchy-driven bullshit) and a happy ending of meeting up and staying on. In between, of course, there is a lost-and-found ring.
An interplay of memory. A critique of a historical forgetfulness...Let us try to look into the into the different shades of Shakuntala. Shakuntala that ranges from being the metaphor of Kalidasa to the painting of Raja Ravi Varma to a film directed by Bhupen Hazarika in 1961. From being the subject of a range of melodies that span Franz Schubert, M.S. Subbulakshmi (fascinating 24 songs soundtrack of Ellis Dungan’s 1941 film) among others to a landmark theatre production of Jerzy Grotowski (initially created for the Polish radio in 1958 and then for stage on December 13, 1960) and even a sculptural rendition by Camille Claudel.
From being a simple re-telling by Ruskin Bond for children, to a little more complex re-telling by Abanindranath Tagore and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar to a Lok Shakuntala of K.V. Subbana of Ninasam or even a subversion of the text as Shakuntala Unduge Apharhna (An Afternoon with Shakuntala-Scripted by K. Vaidehi) or even the wonderfully-nuanced-yet tacky calendar art of yore. And a recent adaptation by the brilliant Slovene playwright Evald Flisar, Shakuntala continues to inspire, intrigue and initiate.
The words have leapt, morphed and lent newer meanings to the idea of rejection and re-unification, to