Geeta Chandran presents performance-dialogue Simhika: Daughter of the Forest

Bharatanatyam guru, exponent and choreographer Geeta Chandran is ready with her new presentation ‘Simhika: Daughter of the Forest’. As a choreographer and as a conceptualizer, she is beyond excellent and works on all aspects of the production — costuming, makeup, music etc. Therefore, Simhika promises to be an experience to remember. It will be staged on 6 August 2022 at 7 p.m. at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi.

As per the press material for this production, the protagonist, Simhika, is a fictional character created for a Kathakali dance-theatre performance written by Kottayam Thampuran. In the original play, ‘Kimira Vadham’, the Kathakali narrative paints her as a rakshasi/demoness.

In her presentation, Geeta Chandran invests Simhika with voice and agency, unveiling the thoughts and conflicts in the protagonist through the process of anavarna, a technique in Bharatanatyam abhinaya, where layer after layer is unpeeled to reveal subtle truths. Geeta casts her as a woman, a wife, a nurturer, a daughter of the forest, who becomes a victim of circumstance. The forest also takes on multiple roles: sakhi/confidant, sakshi/witness; both nurturer and betrayer. And – like the audience -- the forest becomes a mute spectator to injustice and patriarchy. Simhika’s transformation through the technique of rupantara is also a commentary on our contemporary times, where we judge people based only on their outward physical appearance.

Geeta Chandran as Simhika

Simhika’s is a tale of vengeance and revenge situated in treta yuga, in which the Mahabharata is situated. Simhika, a forest maiden completely in sync with her environment, is cruelly widowed when the Pandavas, during their exile in the forest, kill her husband, Shardula. Her sorrow soon turns into to revenge and Simhika transforms herself into a beautiful maiden – but with poison in her heart – and tries to trick Draupadi (wife of the Pandavas) into the forest with the aim of killing her. But here, the forest that has nurtured her gives her away, and Draupadi cries for help. Her husband Sahadeva arrives and brutally defaces Simhika’s body by chopping off her breasts. Simhika laments the injustices heaped on her, and this forms the theatrical focus of Geeta’s powerful performance-dialogue.

The hour-long performance dialogue is situated in a theatrical set that resonates the forest setting. It has been crafted by Jugal Kishore Sharma and his team of traditional flower decorators from Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. The script has been adapted from Thampuran’s original by Geeta Chandran and has been rendered in Sanskrit by A.R. Sreekrishnan. The music scape has been developed as a combined effort of the dancer working closely with vocalist K. Venkateshwaran and percussionist Manohar Balatchandirane. Simhika’s costume has been created by Sandhya Raman.

The research and creation of this performance dialogue, ‘Simhika: Daughter of the Forest’ has been supported by a Special Project Fellowship to Geeta Chandran from WISCOMP (Women in Security, Conflict Management and Peace).