What is the plot of Mahesh Dattani's play Tara?
Mahesh Dattani’s two-act play “Tara” tells the story of two conjoined twins, a boy, Chanda, and a girl, Tara, who are surgically separated in an unequal manner intended to favor the boy. The surgical procedure that separated Chandan and Tara was so preferential to Chandan, in fact, that Tara is unable to survive and disadvantaged in every way growing up, eventually passes away. Chandan racked with guilt over Tara’s disadvantaged life and early death, moves from his native country of India to England, where he attempts to begin life anew, repressing memories of his personal history and changing his name to the Westernized moniker “Dan.” ,
Dattani’s play is intended to portray the struggle of an ancient Eastern civilization attempting to conform to modern, Western values, and failing. The historically subordinate role of women in Indian society and India’s ambitions of emerging as a major global power commensurate with its one-billion-plus population and level of technological advancement. Cultural traditions that place far lower value on female life than on that of a male, as well as the caste system that has condemned hundreds of millions of Hindu Indians to lives of destitution while the upper classes continue to prosper, have sewn divisions in Indian society that may take generations to eliminate. During one important exchange between Chandan and his mother, Bharati, who was complicit with the decision to sacrifice Tara’s happiness and life in deference to the boy, tells Chandan with reference to Tara:
“Let her grow up. Yes, Chandan, the world will tolerate you. The world will accept you – but not her!”
Chandan’s guilt over Tara is second only to that of Bharati – a mother who has knowingly sacrificed her daughter because of cultural inhibitions against placing the value of female life on the same level as that of males. “Tara” is a tragedy. In many cases, twins have been known to possess an emotional connection that transcends that of other siblings. For the surgically-separated twins in “Tara,” that emotional bond similarly exists, but is forcibly separated by Bharati and her father, Patel. As Chandan notes,
“The way we started in life. Two lives and one body in one comfortable womb. Till we were forced out – and separated.”