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Home » Featured » GAUHAR, A Play about India’s First Female Thumri Singer Debuts in the U.S.

GAUHAR, A Play about India’s First Female Thumri Singer Debuts in the U.S.

gauhar jaan, Lillette Dubey, Mahesh Dattani, Vikarm Sampat,

In Palo Alto, California, the hub of hi-tech companies and amazing new start-ups, some of the local population took a relaxed day out to indulge in some exotic performing arts from far across their continent. An all Indian play, Gauhar Jaan, depicting the real-life story of a female Hindustani vocalist that broke many barriers and stereotypes in 19th century India, received applause and admiration from the western audiences.

The powerful performance that was staged at Cubberly Theatre in the city, late last month was a fascinating study in feminism for the spectators. The American audiences, who have often associated Indian stage performances with colourful ensembles and orchestrated moves, were delighted to discover there is much more to Indian performing arts.

Gauhar, presented by Enacte Arts and directed by Lillette Dubey is written by Mahesh Dattani and is based on a novel by Vikarm Sampat, titled, ‘My name is Gauhar Jaan.’
The play that made its late winter tour in America was also shown in Houston, Texas and San Jose California.

The story line recreates, the era of musical excellence in India, dating back to 1902. The
protagonists’ role performed effectively by Rajeshwari Sachdev is an enchanting journey of a woman who travels from Azamgarh to Benaras and finds herself at the pinnacle of her career in Calcutta. The Hindustani vocalist, finding herself, bereft of music opportunities from the durbars of the nawabs, traces a new journey when she records her music at the Gramophone company. The brillian depiction, along with the lovely Sufi music in the background tells the tale of a singer and also her eventual fall from the pinnacle.

Incidentally despite her immense contribution to music and an innate ability to carve a way for herself, never mind the norms and obstacles, there is precious little that is known about this legendary artist in the present-day India.

By bringing the story on stage, this tale full of pathos where the singer meets an unfortunate fate where she is taken for a ride and nurses unrequited love, the director has lent a new life into the perceptions about Indian stage craft in the West.

The other highlights of the show include soulful Sufi singing and brilliant acting by Denzil Smith.

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