A hundred grains of rice: regional Mahābhārata stories in performance
This article explores the subject of regional folk stories found in various vernacular expressions of the Mahābhārata. In particular, the non-canonical stories of Śaśirekha and Śakuni as found in several Telugu versions of the Mahābhārata story are taken up as exemplars to investigate the dynamic process by which regional folk stories transitioned from theatre to text, and from text to cinema. The Śaśirekha story for example, moves from Surabhi folk theatre to a multitude of parinaya texts and finally to the Telugu cinematic hit Maya Bazaar of 1957. By tracking these stories as they evolved into various forms of new media, this article elucidates the fluid, circulatory process by which folk elements enter a grand narrative like the Mahābhārata, penetrate the normative text and get recirculated back as new literary forms and performative genres. In this context, I also try to complicate the classical/folk dichotomy and question the permeability and mutually constitutive nature of such hermeneutical categories.
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