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Rudali from Fiction to Performance

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Rudali is a powerful short story by Mahasweta Devi. Revolving around the life of Sanichari, a poor lowcaste woman, it is an ironic tale of exploitation, struggle and survival. In 1992, it was adapted into a play by Usha Ganguli, a leading theatre director of Calcutta, and instantly became one of the most acclaimed productions of its time. Both the short story and the play Rudali is a powerful short story by Mahasweta Devi. Revolving around the life of Sanichari, a poor lowcaste woman, it is an ironic tale of exploitation, struggle and survival. In 1992, it was adapted into a play by Usha Ganguli, a leading theatre director of Calcutta, and instantly became one of the most acclaimed productions of its time. Both the short story and the play are included in this volume.


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Rudali is a powerful short story by Mahasweta Devi. Revolving around the life of Sanichari, a poor lowcaste woman, it is an ironic tale of exploitation, struggle and survival. In 1992, it was adapted into a play by Usha Ganguli, a leading theatre director of Calcutta, and instantly became one of the most acclaimed productions of its time. Both the short story and the play Rudali is a powerful short story by Mahasweta Devi. Revolving around the life of Sanichari, a poor lowcaste woman, it is an ironic tale of exploitation, struggle and survival. In 1992, it was adapted into a play by Usha Ganguli, a leading theatre director of Calcutta, and instantly became one of the most acclaimed productions of its time. Both the short story and the play are included in this volume.

30 review for Rudali from Fiction to Performance

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gabrielle Trenbath

    Essentially, this story concerns the life of Sanichari. From the caste she was born into to being unfortunate enough to be born on unlucky Saturday, her life continues to see tragedy. Sanichari sees many of her immediate family pass away leaving her in a permanent state of insecurity. Somehow Sanichari continues to cling tightly to her dignity and this allows her to discover opportunities to allow her to support herself. The realities of poverty regularly struck me especially when it is written, Essentially, this story concerns the life of Sanichari. From the caste she was born into to being unfortunate enough to be born on unlucky Saturday, her life continues to see tragedy. Sanichari sees many of her immediate family pass away leaving her in a permanent state of insecurity. Somehow Sanichari continues to cling tightly to her dignity and this allows her to discover opportunities to allow her to support herself. The realities of poverty regularly struck me especially when it is written, ‘For them, nothing has ever come easy. Just the daily struggle for a little maize gruel and salt is exhausting. Through motherhood and widowhood they are tied to the money lender. While those people spend huge sums of money on death ceremonies, just to get prestige….’ This quote really is central to Sanichari story and the community that she is part of as well as her motivation to become a professional mourner. Those that do have money use it to improve their status. Many readers refer to this book as a Feminist text because of Sanichari’s ability to (with the help of Dulan) to manipulate the patriarchal culture resulting in her ability to support herself and not rely on men for life’s essentials. In many ways I struggled with this idea of Rudali being a Feminist book as I never considered working for free for a wealthy landowner (as Sanichari had to do to) to pay a debt as very liberating or even manipulating the patriarchal paradigm as very progressive. As a feminist who grow up in the west where the focus was on very western issues such as pay equality, abortion rights and a more equal distribution of household responsibilities, I often felt uncomfortable when I read about Rudali being regarded a feminist text. When I first began read Rudali, I couldn’t really understand why it was considered feminist. But since finishing the story and thinking about it, my understanding of feminist has grown to appreciate that the struggles and agendas are culturally specific and different depending on where you live. In the West the aim is to push the boundaries of the patriarchal system but in Rudali and in more patriarchal cultures generally, women have to manipulate the system to suit their agenda in the same way that Sanichari does in the story. Rudali and the story of Sanichari is defiantly worth reading and joins my long list of great Indian stories. While this book is a challenging one, it provides a lot to talk about, making it an ideal book for a book club and a priority read before your Indian adventure.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Madhura Gurav

    Although Mahashweta Devi asserts that her agenda isn't feminism, 'Rudali' is a piece of feminist writing. She has not only shed light on the problems of women in a lower caste setting, but also their empowerment. This gives a positive end to the story. What I liked about this edition is that it includes a play adaptation of the story by Usha Ganguli as well as an essay by Anjum Katyal. The play dramatises the story accurately. Ganguli has managed to bring about the incidents in a dramatic way wit Although Mahashweta Devi asserts that her agenda isn't feminism, 'Rudali' is a piece of feminist writing. She has not only shed light on the problems of women in a lower caste setting, but also their empowerment. This gives a positive end to the story. What I liked about this edition is that it includes a play adaptation of the story by Usha Ganguli as well as an essay by Anjum Katyal. The play dramatises the story accurately. Ganguli has managed to bring about the incidents in a dramatic way without compromising the story-line. She manages to pick up the details and fill in the blanks as per the requirement of the medium(play). Coming back to Devi, the interesting thing about this writing is the format. It is written in more of a report form instead of your usual short story narrative. Yet, it has dialogues in indirect speech. I've read so many books, but, never come across anything like this. And it is quite effective!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bhaveen Sawlani

    Mahasweta Devi's style of writing is simple and powerful. Her work as an activist with the Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes of India informs her writing and her stories are as shocking as they are well written, a fantastic resource for someone wanting to understand the lives of the marginalised of our society.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sigy George

    Too much to write about this book. Though set in the era of advent of British era. Mahashweta Devi has beautifully captured how women are marginalised in the society on three fold-class, caste and gender. The story of Shanichari will strike a cord and leave you thinking whether the society has really changed from then.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gijo George

    Awesome book

  6. 5 out of 5

    Libin Varghese

    I read the play based on Rudali loved it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Shrreya Vaisshnav

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sreejith

  9. 5 out of 5

    Farah

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nupur Nagar

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sohini Gayen

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tanisha Mehta

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shimul

  14. 4 out of 5

    curleduptoes

  15. 4 out of 5

    Muna

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aneez Backer

  17. 4 out of 5

    Madhuri

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nimila Joseph

  19. 5 out of 5

    Santu

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maya Nair

  21. 5 out of 5

    Madhvi Sharma

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aritri Basu

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dave Harrison

  25. 5 out of 5

    Manasa

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aparanjitha

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maitreyee

  28. 5 out of 5

    Meghal Karki

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jaee

  30. 4 out of 5

    Prerna Vijayeni

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