This book is a comprehensive critical history of women artistes in Indian theatre and dance of the colonial and post-colonial periods. Its underlying premise is that one cannot evaluate such performances in the Indian context without looking at dance and theatre together, unlike the course taken by traditional scholarship. The author weaves together issues of sexuality and colonialism, and culture and society to provide a holistic account of women performers in India.
The distinguishing features of this book are: a close reading of archival materials, field surveys and extensive interviews that provide new information and insights. The book is divided into two sections, on the Actress and on the Danseuse, and displays how the two evolved in different ways. In doing this, it explores the theme of identity and body politics, while simultaneously balancing a historical narrative with emphasis on crucial individual topics.
The book adopts a pluralistic approach combining history, economics, cultural studies, popular culture, anthropology, ethnography and feminist criticism. Archival photographs—some of which have never been published before—make it a collector’s item.