Tagore’s “Chitra: The Warrior Princess” – Play Review

Rabindranath Tagore’s “Chintrangadha” gets new life under expert direction of Ranjita Chakravarty, in enActe Arts riveting musical, “Chitra: The Warrior Princess”.  (What an amazing performance to enjoy India’s Nobel Laureate Tagore.  Here is my previous blog on celebration of Tagore’s creations in a Gujarati event http://bit.ly/1IsqzEE .) In Chitra, timeless tale of Manipur’s warrior princess, unfolds in a fabulous medley of superb dances (by Sanjib Bhattacharya, Annapurna Chandra, Debapriya Banerjee, Piya Mitra, Anuradha Mookerjee, Susmita Guhamajumder, Meghah Premasagar, Urmi Chakraborty, Ananya Basu, Depanwita Seal, Piyali Deb, Puspita Moitra, Sulagna Ray Saha, Susmita Guhamajumdar, Urmi Sen, Tracy Halder and Rohit Sankarraman), expertly choreographed by Dalia Sen Chatterjee and Sanjib Bhattacharya, and rapturous music (by Prasenjit Biswas, Sonali Bhattacharya, Abhra Roy, Anoop Bhattacharjya, Subhen Khatua, Sucheta Basu, Sukanya Chakrabarti, and Subhas Khansnabish).

Deergha Sahni is extremely talented and she carries the show as Chitra, the only child of the king and heir to the throne, brought up as a boy, a warrior, and protector of her people.  However, when Chitra’s eyes fall upon Arjun (Myrton Runningwolf) famous for his skills in archery, most tender feelings are awakened in the little girl, standing on the precipice of womanhood.  She loses interest in her former life and pines for her lover.  She summons help from Madan, the God of Love (Havish Ravipati).

“Take from my young body this primal injustice, an unattractive plainnness.  For a single day make me superbly beautiful, even as beautiful as was the sudden blooming of love in my heart. Give me but one brief day of perfect beauty, and I will answer for the days that follow”.  The God obliges and transforms her into a beautiful feminine woman, and not just for a day.  This wonderful blessing comes with a shelf life of one year.

When Chitra sees Arjun, he takes notice, “the very sight of you is indeed the highest hospitality”, and asks her “Alas, what can you desire, you who are the desire of the whole world”?
Chitra sings “Bodhu kon aalo laglo chokhe!” beautiful lyrics may translate as

Strange light flashed in my eyes, O my friend!
Radiant, perhaps dweller of the sun you are!
From ages my mind waited for you, day and night,
Immersed in the darkness of severe agony,
Reincarnating again and again only to have estranged heart.
Unopened buds of flower in the arbour,
Anguished soul devoid of music,
How do I elapse friendless, ever-miserable night sleeping alone.
O handsome,
Come with your welcoming garland,
Unveil that is concealed,
Look up the shyly smiling face under the pious light.

Borrowed beauty however, is temporary, and comes without a future.  There is discontent in the air, even as Chitra beacons Arjun to live the moment and hushes talk of the future. “Take me in your arms, my love.  Let all vain bickerings of discontent die away at the sweet meeting of our lips”.  And yet, as days go by, Chitra yearns to be a complete woman and desires Arjun as her equal.  Arjun too contemplates their future and seeks to know more.  “My love, have you no home where kind hearts are waiting for your return?; “Has she no tie with the world?  Can she be merely like a fragment of heaven dropped on the earth through the carelessness of a wanton God”?  Meanwhile, Arjun hears about Chitra, the warrior princess and he also becomes enamored by a woman warrior.  Chitra tries to distract him in vain, as Arjuna tells her what he has heard, “They say that in valour she is a man, and a woman in tenderness”.  

Chitra then asks Madan to free her of her boon and the illusion surrounding her is shattered.  She says to Arjun “look at your worshipper with gracious eyes.  I am not beautifully perfect as the flowers with which I worshipped.  I have many flaws and blemishes.  If you deign to keep me by your side in the path of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the great duties of your life, then you will know my true self.” Revealing her true self, she says, “Today I can only offer you Chitra, the daughter of a king”.  Chitra becomes an equal consort to the man she loves as Arjun says “Beloved, my life is full”.

Stage manager Gayatri Joshi, set and costume designer, Sonalee Hardikar, and Srikar Srinath on lights, did a fabulous job of creating magical, mystical environment and and talented Deergha Sahini, along with fabulous dancers transported the audience to the age where even a princess yearns to be complete, in love and in vocation.   This is Ranjita Chakravarty’s directional debut and she has delivered a memorable show in Chitra.  Great kudos to Artistic Director, Vinita Sud Belani for providing platform to bay area talent and breaking new ground with contemporary presentations of timeless classics like this one.  This is a not-to-miss performance.  Get your tickets at www.enacte.org (last show is on May, 10).

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