Book Review: Drama Queens- Women Who Created History on Stage by Veejay Sai

  • ISBN: 978-9351941958
  • Genre: Non-Fiction/Biographies & Autobiographies
  • Publishers: Roli Books
  • Price: Rs. 556/-  ( I got the book for review from the publisher)
The period between 1850 and 1950 was a magnificent time for the world of performing arts. Classical music, dance, drama and folklore traditions were being rewritten and reinterpreted to welcome a new age. These arts were a reflection of the times, but they had larger role to play than as mere entertainment. Drama Queens: Women who created history on stage places itself at the crossroads of understanding modern cultural history. Through ten leading ladies of theatre, including Munni Bai, Mukhtar Begum, Jahanara Kajjan and Moti Bai, the book traces an unwritten narrative of women, performance, nationhood and modernity. The visuals knit a historical account reflecting the rich artistic lives they led. Through a project of memory, this book is a tribute to the giant contribution of these women to the making of art history.

Behind the Book
About the Author
Veejay Sai is an award-winning writer, editor, translator and culture critic. He has written on Indian classical music, dance, theatre and art history. He lives and works in New Delhi. Drama Queens is his first book.

Me thinks

If like you have ever wondered about what was India like during the olden times, then this book is for you. Everytime I look around our culture and tradition my first question invariably is "It wasn't like this always, was it?" Sometimes I have got answers and sometimes not. It is this mystery associated with it that makes history so immensely attractive for me.

When I got this book my immediate reaction was to flip through the pages and stare at those lovely black and white photographs in awe. There is something so beautiful about black and white pictures, it is as if time itself decided to speak to you through them. As if the photographs' beauty wasn't enough to floor me, Girish Karnad's foreword stating all that makes this book a compelling read was like the icing on the cake. It set the perfect mood for the book.

I have read the book in 4 sittings , each thoroughly enjoyable and informative. This book is extremely well researched. With lucid language it takes you through the trials and tribulations of the various women artists of India in a time when artists were looked down up largely by the society. Despite having some very tear jerking narratives on hand, the author has made the book an exciting read by laying more emphasis on their talent rather than their struggles. 

Set being in the bygone era , in many stories you will see a hint of modernity with dedication shining through each one of them. These women are truly an example we all could learn something from. Their approach towards life in general and more importantly their loyalty towards their passion is inspiring in more than one ways. Some of the common factors between them have to be society and family despite the change in times. And that is where we realize their true strength.

Though it is always debatable as to why did the book not cover the technical aspects of their art forms. Because I feel, one technicalities is something that not everyone enjoys reading. Secondly, looking at the detailing of the book it feels covering the technicalities calls for an another book altogether!

The visuals used in the book tell us their life story, how art played an important role in their lives and what kind of artistic lives they led. Looking at some of the photographs, their dresses, detailing in terms of jewellery and the over all get up, I got goosebumps as I witnessed how driven they were towards their goal. In a world where there was no social media, they relied completely on their own instincts for any ideas they wanted to experiment with.

Overall, a brilliant book. A perfect slice from the history, one that you can keep going back to again and again. Strongly recommended to all art and history lovers!

Foodie Verdict

This book is like cheese fondue - Delectable, thoroughly enjoyable and suitable for all occasions!