24 October, 2020

A Separate Stage

Heart-tugging memoirs of a 'fallen' turn-of-the-century actress

A Separate Stage
BINODINI Dasi belongs to the first generation of actresses of the Bengali public theatre. She made her debut, at the age of 11, in a one-line part as Draupadi's handmaiden at the Great National Theatre in Calcutta in 1874. Like her peers, Binodini was recruited from the prostitute quarters of Calcutta, had affairs with several men, many of whom became her "protectors" for long periods. She makes no attempt to disguise this reality in her twin autobiographies, which read together present a comprehensive account of not merely the state of the theatre, but also prevailing social and political conditions during the latter part of the 19th century, particularly the status of women.

Within a year Binodini's natural talent made her a star. The Statesman called her the Flower of the Native Stage. In theatre she was addressed as 'signora'. Binodini left the stage at the height of her fame in 1887, when still in her early twenties. She came an uneducated waif and left a cultured, refined, highly articulate and literate lady—'almost bhadramahila'! The Atma Kathas were written...



To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

In this article:

More from Kavita Nagpal

Latest Magazine

November 02, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section