Discussion Topic

Overview and Significance of Mahesh Dattani's Play Tara

Summary:

Tara by Mahesh Dattani explores themes of gender discrimination and societal expectations through the story of conjoined twins, Tara and Chandan. The play highlights the preference for male children in Indian society and the psychological impact of this bias on individuals and families. Its significance lies in its critical examination of deep-rooted cultural norms and the call for gender equality and self-acceptance.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the plot of Mahesh Dattani's play Tara?

Mahesh Dattani’s play Tara starts with a card game. A brother, Chandan, and sister, Tara, are playing cards, and Tara is winning. While things are going well for her in the card game, her life is not unfolding in a fortunate manner. According to her mom, Bharati, Tara is “witty and intelligent,” yet due to an operation, Tara lacks healthy legs.

Her disability was the result of a conscious choice made by members of her family and Dr. Thakkar. Tara and Chandan were conjoined twins. In order to separate them and supply Chandan with the better chance of living a regular life in a normative, able body, Thakkar performs a surgery that will benefit the brother. Thakkar was not acting by himself. Bharati and her politically powerful dad bribed him to do the surgery that would benefit the boy and harm the girl.

The surgery is central to the plot of the play. It fills Bharati and Chandan with guilt and sorrow. Bharati tries to make amends by donating her kidney, but Patel won't let her. Chandan, meanwhile, attempts to escape the torment of what happened by moving to London and changing his name to Dan.

As for Patel, he has to deal with accusations of sexism and favoritism. He tells Tara, “I have never, in all my life, loved you less or more than I have loved your brother.” Despite such claims, the plot makes it hard to separate sexism and oppressive Indian gender norms from the divergent fates of Chandan and Tara. Chandan, though palpably distressed, can live a relatively normal, free life. Tara suffers alienation and ultimately dies.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the plot of Mahesh Dattani's play Tara?

Tara is a play written by Mahesh Dattani. The play follows the story of conjoined twins. One twin is a boy, Chandan, and the other twin is a girl, Tara. In order to save the twins' lives, these conjoined twins have to be surgically separated. Naturally, this comes with huge medical risks and implications. You can at this point probably guess what the main issue in the play is going to be: it is the issue of gender discrimination, the issue of favoring the male or the female child. In fact, the surgery clearly favors Chandan, the boy, as it is performed in a way that massively impacts Tara's quality of life.

Eventually, this even leads to Tara's death, which makes Chandan reflect on his life. He feels very guilty about the way his twin sister had to suffer in life, while he had been able to live a comparatively easy life, and he also feels responsible for her death. This is why Chandan decides to leave India and to move away, in order to start a completely new life and to forget about his past. This is why Chandan moves to England.

He is so determined to start a new chapter in his life that he even calls himself "Dan" instead of "Chandan," in an attempt to leave his Indian roots behind and to start all over again.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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, Chandan, 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.”

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the significance of the title Tara in Mahesh Dattani's play?

The title of the play Tara by Mahesh Dattani alludes to societal attitudes towards gender and gender identity. Tara is one half of a pair of conjoined twins. Her brother, Chandan, becomes the main focus of the play, as he outlives his sister and deals with the repercussions of the decisions made after their birth. When the twins are physically separated shortly after birth, the doctor and parents make an immediate choice to provide Chandan a better chance of survival and success.

This decision, made with the endorsement of Tara and Chandan's parents, sets in motion a future that will favor Chandan while limiting Tara's ability to develop into the woman she is fully capable of being.

Throughout the play, the audience is given examples of how Tara is the wittier and more ambitious twin. Yet, the society around these twins strives to propel Chandan forward and to discard Tara. Even after Tara's death, Chandan rejects any side of himself that isn't considered traditionally male. The title of the play Tara eludes to how the entirety of the work relates back to the sacrifice of Tara's future and how that sacrifice haunts the remaining characters.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on