Pratidhwani and ACTLab have come together to create an extravaganza of drama, dance and music as they tell the story of “Devi.”
The show features more than 50 performers from the Puget Sound-area’s South Asian community including artists from Redmond, Kirkland, Sammamish and Bellevue.
Pratidhwani is a Seattle nonprofit cultural organization with the purpose of promoting and cultivating South Asian artistic traditions through performing arts.
In the original 1884 Bengali novel “Devi Chaudhurani” by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, the young, illiterate, and impoverished Prafulya unexpectedly soars to great heights as Devi, a woman who rises to power against the rule of the British. Despite being beloved by her people, Devi ultimately submits to cultural pressure and returns to her traditional duty as a wife.
In this new, English-language adaptation by Seattle writer and director Moumita Bhattacharya, Pratidhwani gives Prafulya the power of choice — proving that a woman can be the protagonist in her own story, despite men’s best efforts to make her invisible.
“Devi” is the fifth collaboration between ACTLab and Pratidhwani. Pratidhwani’s production of “Devi” is wrapping up its performances at the Allen Theatre at ACT, 700 Union St. in Seattle, by May 11.
“When Bankim wrote ‘Devi’ in the 1880s, despite the compelling story of a powerful woman, the ending was driven by Bankim’s principles of a ‘perfect society’ and was predictable,” Bhattacharya said in a release. “There never was a question of where she would go. To me, that was not acceptable. Every human being needs to have a choice. Most importantly, as I adapted the story for stage, I felt like Devi herself was demanding that she be given a right to choose her own life.”
Ritwik Mannan of Kirkland is one of the lead male dancers. The self-taught dancer of more than 10 years said he’s enjoyed being a part of “Devi.”
“I’ve loved being a part of this show. It’s such a supportive, helpful and creative cast and crew,” he said. “It’s been great to put on such a massive production and doing something a little out of my creative comfort zone.”
Sravya Vishnubhatla of Bellevue is the show’s choreographer and is also one of the female dancers. She said working on this production has been an amazing inspiration.
“We’ve built a really great community and we have a strong network of people,” Vishnubhatla said.
While preparing for a large scale production proved to be challenging at times, especially with the February snowstorms, Vishnubhatla said the cast and crew put in a lot of extra time to ensure everything was perfect.
Vishnubhatla said this version of the classic story is one that will appeal to a variety of audiences.
“The show is for all people. It has a strong female lead. The story is vulnerable and empowering,” she said. “The show does a great job of being inclusive and accessible to all audiences.”