Tales of three Indian heroines

Stree Shakti focuses on three heroines - Savitri and Ghandari from Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, and Kannagi from Tamil epic Silapathikaram.
Stree Shakti focuses on three heroines - Savitri and Ghandari from Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, and Kannagi from Tamil epic Silapathikaram.PHOTO: ESPLANADE - THEATRES ON THE BAY

The power of women is directly explored in Stree Shakti by Bharathaa Arts. In Hindi, "shakti" means power or empowerment and "stree" refers to women.

Three heroines from Indian classical literature are explored in this 90-minute performance, which incorporates Bharatanatyam (Indian classical dance from Tamil Nadu), theatrical narration and live music.

From the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata are Savitri, a devoted wife who challenges the god of death to save her husband's life; and Ghandari, a mother who loses her 100 sons in battle and voluntarily blindfolds herself permanently after marrying her blind husband.

The third heroine is Kannagi from Tamil epic Silapathikaram, who curses an entire city after the king has her husband killed for a crime he did not commit.

The 19-year-old Singapore dance company is headed by Jeyanthi Balasubramaniam, 51, and Suganthi Kumaraguru, 53, who are better known by their maiden surname as the Kesavan sisters.

  • BOOK IT / STREE SHAKTI

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $30 (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

Jeyanthi says feminism has always fascinated them.

She says: "As young girls, we blossom into women who find ourselves playing many roles, almost having to become a master of all trades by default. We are not taught how to overcome specific situations or issues."

She hopes that the stories of the three strong female characters will "serve as an inspiration" to women.

"Stree Shakti is the embodiment of love, compassion and perseverance, as seen through the three," she adds.

The piece has been performed before in Singapore in 2014 and in Adelaide last year. But those shows did not portray the story of Ghandari, which Jeyanthi says is a tough role to play as the dancer must be blindfolded.

She portrayed Savitri in those runs, but this time, she is not dancing in the production. She will be helping to provide the musical accompaniment, while Suganthi is the artistic director of the work.

In this way, the Kesavan sisters are giving the young women in the company, who are aged between 15 and 30, a chance to shine.

"They are great talents and this gives them exposure. I'm proud to see them growing and to see my work in them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2016, with the headline 'Tales of three Indian heroines'. Print Edition | Subscribe