Patriarchy and Gender Preference in Mahesh Dattani’s Tara – Smita Ray

Patriarchy and Gender Preference in Mahesh Dattani’s Tara

– N. Anisha

The essay in brief discusses the patriarchal practices in a traditional Hindu Society in the light of eminent playwright Mahesh Dattani’s play, Tara. The author uses definitions of patriarchy and gender from theorists ranging from Gerda Lerner to Walby and Adrienne Rich. He uses western Feminist ideas to establish the relationship between patriarchy and gender which in the latter section of the essay, she opines to be one of the major reasons behind women’s subordination in a family. According to the theorist Walby “patriarchy operates to achieve and maintain the gender inequalities essential for the subordination of women.” The patriarchal dominance in the plays of Dattani, not only establish the superiority of the male hegemonic power but also shows how women’s identity is defined and structured by men.

Even in the 21st century, when in India girls have repeatedly proved themselves competent for every profession, the deep rooted gender discrimination continues among even the affluent and educated people living a so called modern life in the metro cities. Dattani deems the gender issues more prominent than the class discrimination, though both issues are prominent in today’s society.

Tara was Dattani’s third play staged in Bangalore on 23 October, 1990 based on the theme of prejudices against a girl child and the preference of a male child over the ‘other’ gender not only by the men but mostly by the women, in this case Tara’s mother Bharati. Dattani brings out through this play Tara’s subordination by the patriarchal society where male, being the bread-earner and head of the family, decides upon the boundaries and freedom for the family members.

Dattani portrays how Bharati, Tara’s mother enjoyed a taste of patriarchal dominance when she plotted with her father to separate the twins, thereby giving two legs to the boy and one to the girl which led to the untimely death of the latter. The essay also supports the argument by quoting Asha Kothari who opines that Dattani’s Tara deals with the issue of female infanticide rampant not only in the less educated rural sections of the society but also in the urban Gujrati families where Patel’s hegemonic patriarchy insisted ‘proper’ division in the gender roles for the boys and girls. In such families it has often been noticed that the punitive measure meted out to the aberrant female is deemed justified by none other than but one who has herself been the victim of domestic violence and emotional privation. Though the role expectations have undergone significant changes in the urban Indian Hindu family, but yet an employed lady balancing both her public and private space quite successfully is either despised by the society or criticised as a ‘virangana’, since the power practised by her is unusual and unconventional to her gender. If power or virata is exercised by a male member of the family, then he is neither praised nor despised for it as this is conventional according to his gender role.

The stereotype of masculinity enjoins the male to be brave, daring and dexterous, to be honourable and honest. He must not complain or lose control of his emotions, nor should he practise any art form that is traditionally associated with women. Hence when Chandan, the elder brother of Tara, was helping his mother to sort out her mistake in knitting, Patel deliberately drew a line mentioning knitting is a female occupation, strictly prohibited for the males. These patriarchal mind-sets and beliefs are detrimental to free will and individuality to be practised by both male and female members of the society. The ‘othering’ of females not only subordinates their position in the society but also silences their voices in a family. They are expected to maintain the household and take care of the children as a daughter, mother, wife, mother-in-law or sister. This play also establishes how male defines the gender roles and societal expectations for a female when Patel announces that the inherited property solely belongs to Chandan as it will be a meaningless act to waste money on a girl child. She can be left to be rejected by the society for crippleness whereas Chandan should be the fore-bearer and the representative of the family name and honour.

The researcher hence will attempt to prove how the male hegemonic practices are not only enjoyed by males, but also practised by females who once been a victim. She, now becomes the perpetrator to taste the flavours of patriarchal dominance and superiority. If Bharati, Tara’s mother unhesitatingly decided to operate the twins and provide Chandan with two legs and Tara with one, then Baa in Bravely Fought The Queen also manipulates her son Jiten to perpetrate violence on her wife, Dolly which resulted in the birth of a crippled Daksha.

Theorist Lakshmi Subramaniam demonstrates in the light of Dattani’s Tara how the male self is always preferred in all cultures as has been also noticed in several other plays of Dattani. Tara who is killed by the age old social systems and gender differences is no different from Alka or Dolly from Dattani’s Bravely Fought the Queen whose existences have been limited by their husbands. In this play, the former is beaten up by her husband while the latter is unknowingly forced into a conjugal relationship with a man who has homosexual inclinations.

The researcher hence with the help of this article will attempt to study the dilemma in the characters of the females in two of Dattani’s most popular plays, Tara and Bravely Fought the Queen in the light of societal traditions, expectations and frameworks which not only makes   an individual’s existence claustrophobic but also restricts their personal space and infringes upon their freedom.


Anisha. N. “Patriarchy and Gender Preference in Mahesh Dattani’s Tara”. Indian Theatre in English and Literary Feminism. Authorspress. 2013. (29-37)




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s