Symbolism in Dattani Bravely Fought the Queen

Mir Hassan

 Symbolism in Dattani Bravely Fought the Queen

Symbolism in Dattani Bravely Fought the Queen

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Symbolism in Bravely Fought the Queen

Mahesh Dattani’s ‘Bravely Fought the Queen’

       Mahesh Dattani is considered one of the best Indian playwrights His plays deal with a wide range of themes and focus on subjects like gender identity, gender discrimination, the plight of transgender and communal tensions. His noted plays are ‘Dance Like a Man’, ‘Tara’, ‘Bravely Fought the Queen’  and 'Final Solutions’. The play Bravely Fought the Queen" also like  Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar NamedDesire" and Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" explores issues of gender and sexuality Like these plays, "Bravely Fought the Queen" also  deals with themes of repression, desire, and societal expectations, and it uses a domestic setting to explore these issues in a nuanced and complex way


Use of  symbols in Mahesh Dattani’s plays 

Mahesh Dattani frequently employs symbolism to convey deeper meanings in his plays. In "Tara," the character of Chandan is a symbol of societal expectations and conformity. In "Final Solutions," the character of Jumman is a symbol of communal tensions and violence. In "Dance Like a Man," the dance form of Bharatanatyam is a symbol of tradition and cultural identity.  In "Thirty Days in September," the character of Mala is a symbol of trauma and healing.

 The present play is ‘Bravely Fought the Queen’ is a thought–provoking domestic tragedy.  ‘The play Bravely Fought the Queen’ like ‘Tara’ deals with gender discrimination and exploitation of women. The playwright has used several symbols throughout the play. 

Symbol of mud mask in ‘Bravely Fought the Queen’

 we find the reference to the mud mask used by Dolly on her face, sitting on a sofa and filing her nails abstractedly. This is nothing, but, concealment of her real identity, in order to clean it up, which can be effective to increase her beauty. But, because apparently, it seems that she is applying the mud-mask on her face actually, it symbolizes the concealment of her tremendous loneliness and deprivation in her personal life, by engaging herself in the task of beautification. Whereas, Lalitha also uses the mud mask, which equally symbolizes that she too tries to reconcile with the boredom of her monotonous life.


 Re-Va-Tee as  a symbol in Bravely Fought the Queen’

There is another reference to a symbol and that is the masked ball arranged by the men to launch a new product of women's night wears and underwear, known as the Re-Va-Tee. For the publicity of this brand-new, fancy', 'color-coordinated' and at the same time passion-provoking product, dance performers will use masks to conceal their real appearance. Obviously, the product is symbolically suggested to unleash the sexual passion to be excited by the women among the men. About Re-Va-Tee, Sridhar describes, "You've got the model lying invitingly on a bed and the signature is 'Light his fire with Re-Va-Tee'. In the storyline is the video commercial, you have the model looking out of the window and she sees that her husband or her lover has come home. She quickly rushes, opens a box removes the new Ra-Va-Tee bra, panties, and nightie. cut her dress in them. She lets her hair loose, pirouettes, and lies down on the bed, just just as the door opens. Freeze. Signature 'Light his fire with Re-Va-Tee.’ 

 This Re Va Tee at the same time symbolizes how the sophisticated class of people do not just bother about spending a  handsome amount of money on such dress materials. It also indicates the masculine notion of decorating their wives with these passion-provoking materials, as Jiten rightly points out "Men would want their women dressed up like that. And they have buying power.” Which actually points out the perverted taste of rich people.

'Thumri' of Naina Devi is the symbol 

Again the 'Thumri' of Naina Devi is the symbol of disdained sexual pleasure by Dolly coming in contact with the substitute young cook Kanhaiya secretly. This holy song of the Thumri is used by Dolly to serve the purpose of satisfying her oppressed sexual desire with Kanhaiya. The Thumri again signifies the combating attitude of Naina Devi, protesting against the dogmatic and orthodox culture of Indian society which is full of social hypocrisies, such as, here from time immemorial we are used to worshiping the 'Devis' or the Goddesses like- 'Durga', 'Kali', 'Laxmi',  'Saraswati' and praise the intellect of the women like Apala, Lopamudra, Maitrayee, and Aditi, but, at that time we use to criticize those women, who used to sing and dance to earn their livelihood as the 'Tawaifs' or the prostitutes.

The Dancing in the Rain by Alka getting intoxicated is also a kind of mask. It is the spontaneous overflow of her aggression because of the continuous suppression of her sexual desire and her protestation against a homosexual husband. And it made this conservative upper-middle-class housewife addicted to alcohol and she dances like a man woman excitedly in the rain in order to satisfy her lust.

symbol  Bonsai Tree 

The bonsai is also a recurring symbol in the play. A bonsai is a tree kept very small by growing it in a little pot and trimming it in a special way. In this play, it is a symbol of restricted or stunted growth. The dwarfed tree serves as the central symbol in the play representing the cruel minimization of a free spirit, the marginalized status of women in the Indian society, and their abject subjugation by the patriarchal world. The bonsai is the artificial product of human will. It is a deformed plant, reflective of the acute dearth of their independent identities. All the women except Lalitha are equated with the bonsai. Like the branches of the bonsai, the wings of women are clipped. The bonsai, with the advance of time, does not grow large in shape. In other words, their freedom is restricted and they have fallen victims to patriarchal grooming.

Lalitha points out that the bonsai has been habituated to its changed ethos and accepts it. Likewise, the women in the Trivedi family have become reduced to clinging creatures devoid of love, fulfillment and will of their own. The women are pathetically and socially conditioned by the male members. Like the bonsai, the female members have been "resigned to their new shape". They are subject to the torture inflicted upon them by the men folk just like the bonsai which is constantly clipped. Like the bonsai, the women are mentally undergrown and underdeveloped. The development of their independent identities is hindered.


Just as the bonsai is fed meagerly, the women have to live a miserable life. There is another bonsai seen on Sridhar's desk in the office, which is described as odd and grotesque which underscores its unnaturalness. This unnaturalness pinpoints the unnatural behaviour of Jiten and Nitin. Nitin is a homosexual while Jiten indulges in debauchery. The women in our society have to accept the diminutive roles as fixed by the patriarchal society. When Lalitha suggests that Dolly should wear the costume of a queen at the masked ball, Dolly prefers to play the role of a tawaif whose sole aim in life is to please men. Like the bonsai, Dolly lives a life of rigorous restrictions. She is represented as the stereotypical Indian woman and may be termed the bonsai version of womanhood acquiescing in her subaltern status. The women in the play are chained by unfavourable circumstances into which they have been thrust. Unfavourable circumstances pose stumbling blocks to the complete realization of their inherent abilities or potentialities. The bonsai highlights the claustrophobic female world and the exploitation of the women by the men. The potentialities cannot bloom just like the bonsai.


In the play, the women have to live a confined domestic life within the four walls of the house. They are devoid of love and fulfillment of their emotional needs. The bonsai is made an attractive and expensive object and is taken much care of. Alka, Lalitha and Dolly resemble the bonsais. Unlike the bonsai, their nurturing needs are not taken care of. But like the bonsai, the women too reflect on the beauty and class quotient of their respective husbands. Women are under the domination of a limited patriarchal space. They are stunted in their growth just like the bonsais. The trimming of the shoots of the bonsai has laid bare the torture inflicted upon the women by their husbands and hence is suggestive of their mental and physical sufferings. Again, the shape and look of a bonsai is artificial but not natural. In this sense, the bonsai is suggestive of the hypocritical nature of men and the bondage of women in the hands of men.


The title of ‘Bravely Fought the Queen' is also a symbol

The title of ‘Bravely Fought the Queen ‘is also pretty much significant, because it distinctly suggests that a woman who ought to be the chief female character of the play, fights against the domination of the dogmatic patriarchal society and the domination done upon her by her tyrannical husband and a bed-ridden mother-in-law, though Dattani has portrayed the candidly the sufferings of the three women of the Trivedi family, i.e., Baa, Dolly, and Alka, at the hands of their adulterous and unfaithful husbands. In spite of that, though Baa and Alka protest against the torture done upon them by their husbands,, it is Dolly who fights bravely and tremendously against all those persecutions done by Jiten and Baa at the end of the final Act of the play. Here, she tears off the mask of conventional morality of Jiten in front of everyone by saying- "And you hit me Jitu! Jitu, you beat me up! I was carrying Daksha and you beat me up." Thus she drives Jiten, the aggressive oaf to feel guilty of his misdeeds, which is comparable to the extreme bravery shown by the Queen of Jhansi, Rani LaxmiBai, who had fought the battle of Sepoy Mutiny in the year 1857 against the British East


 Some other symbols in 'Bravely Fought the Queen'

There are other significant symbols that are skilfully woven into the fabric of the play-the non-existent Kanhaiya,  the beggar-woman, Baa's wheelchair, Baa's bell, the spastic child Daksha, Baa's room, the bar, the twin houses and the masked ball. Baa's room symbolizes Baa's psychological hold on her sons, Jiten and Nitin, and their wives. With the device of light and darkness in Baa's room, Baa's warped personality and her role in the present problems of the family are revealed. Her room also signifies the she-patriarchy'. At the instigation of Baa, Jiten tortured his own wife. The interpolated story of the non-existent Kanhaiya, the replacement cook, constitutes the focal point of the play. It serves as a potent symbol that reveals frustration, hollowness and trauma in the women of the Trivedi family. Kanhaiya is a mere figment of Dolly's imagination. Dolly's unhappy conjugal life, and her loveless life devoid of enjoyment and fulfillment are shown through the symbol of Kanhaiya. Being trapped in a social matrix that hardly provides Dolly with any relief, her yearning for emancipation is revealed through the symbol. Dolly defined her sexuality through a fantasy with the non-existent cook who satisfies her emotional and physical needs.

Baa's wheelchair, never used in the course of the play, is symptomatic of Baa's own paralytic condition and dependence and also of the paralytic mental condition and bondage of her daughter-in-law. The bar in the house is symbolic of modern sophistication. But to have a bar dominate the living room is suggestive of a lack of taste and the presence of alcoholism and debauchery. The murder of the harmless old beggar suggests the cruelty of the rich and the acute lack of conscience and the powerlessness of the poor before the power of the powerful. The old beggar-woman here also symbolizes all-pervasive hunger and underlines helplessness. The twin houses far away from the city are symbolic of the isolation and seclusion of Dolly and Alka.

Baa's bell is symbolic of her domination and the circumscribed life of Baa's daughters-in-law. Daksha, the spastic child, is symbolic of the ruthless torture on the women by their husbands even in rich families in India.


Finally, we can say that the symbols are used to give the readers and the audiences a panoramic picture of anything in a compact manner. If the images give a brief and accurate picture of anything, then the symbols provide the underlying thoughts and feelings behind the thing symbolized.


 Thus, Mahesh Dattani's use of the symbols in his play ‘Bravely Fought The Queen is apt and suggestive, because they are all very provocative to think about the social problems that gradually developed in post-colonial India.


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