• The Feminist Times

AsthaNowYika: Revisiting characterizations of a Heroine with a Gender and political twist.

This was a high summer morning, just by then the cuisine and tourist places in the city were

opening to common public in Hyderabad. This was the time when I had a change to visit my

hometown, Ranasthalam a village situated in the sub-urbs of Andrapradesh near the city

Vishakhapatnam. My stay at this place was for not more than 3 days, however I did get a

chance to revisit the famous Ramatirthalu temple, where much elevated sculptors were

carved on the high towers of the temple.

There were multiple themes of women carved in these stone towers, starting from the

startling Apsaras, to the iconic devis and gana- stirs and an indent tale of Krishna rasaleela in

the welcome gate. As I was going through these art sculptors, I came across a very tied

concept of women and their emotions. A blend of Navarasas seen through the eyes of

women. The concept of Asthanaika. Something I learned as a part of my initial Bharatanatyam


While going through further with Geeta Govinda translations on which those sculptures were

based on, I came across the much-known concept of Asthanaika which is mentioned in Natya

shastra. A concept where there were multiple dance pieces, performances, padams

performed and spoken about time and again in multiple contexts. The idea of Asthanaika is

something only associated to women. For men in Natyashastra there are only four mood-

boards and all of it has one thing is common, being brave. The classification of Heroic was

Dhirodhata - Brave and haughty, Dhiralalita - Brave and sportive, Dhirodata - Brave and magnanimous,

Dhiraprashaanta - Brave and calm. This classification made me wonder, why aren’t men shown as

weeping, vulnerable, non-commanding in each romantic portal. Which also brings up to the face that

the Asthanayika itself showed women as week, seeking, deprived and veining for men. The context of

gender was seen so patriarchal and unilaterally that it played the Binary game of Heteronomy. That was

something which I which pushed me to seek an artistic take.

Majority of these Asthanayikas are old and conservative women imageries and not something relatable

to this age diverse gender spectrum. We moved out of seeing gender as a conventional binary and my

constant vision to rebuild the narratives of asthanaika with a gender non confirming imagery paved way

to a photo performance project.

I called this project as “AsthaNowYika”, the Now-a days imagery of heroines who is more gender variant

and self-powered femineity. Upon creating this concept, I connected with Santosh Gangala a friend and

a well-known photographer who helped me bring this concept to life as a photo-performance project.

I wanted to bring up an imagery of non-confirming, self-centered form of imagery with the framework of

defined terminologies, I saw the idea of Asthanaika as an aspect of a same story changing its narratives

with the changing outcome. I wanted to interline the Idea of opening on the aspect of Kink and Self

exploration. hence used a purple apple print saree with a visible stocking pants to make the look. I used

objects like a hand fan. Comb and external objects to navigate through the narrative. Purple was my

color to signify the non-conformity.


Patruni Chidananda Sastry

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