While Mahatma Gandhi is hailed across the world as a champion of humanity and nonviolent struggle, the struggles of the woman who accompanied him closely all his life, his wife Kasturba Gandhi, remain untold. This playtext, Jagadamba, rights that wrong with a long monologue in which Kasturba speaks from her heart about the different facets of her life—an often difficult marriage, the great man’s selfless immersion in politics and its consequences for their family, their troubled sons, and, most importantly, her own desires and hopes.
Originally conceived in the Marathi language for actress Rohini Hattangadi, who received an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Kasturba in Richard Attenborough’s classic biopic Gandhi, this play charts the journey of a simple girl who went on to become “Jagadamba,” or the “Universal Mother,” as the wife of the Mahatma.
As Shanta Ghokale writes in her introduction: “Wives of great men have hard lives, often lived in negation of values they hold most dear. Jagadamba is the personal feelings of a devoted wife who had held her own in a life made mentally, physically, and morally turbulent by her husband’s ideas and political work.”
As a boy growing up in rural Italy in the 1930s, Damìn is experiencing the first stirrings of adolescence when he accidentally sees his mother having sex with the local Fascist commandant. His pain, anger, and confusion are uncomfortably intertwined with a compulsion to watch them, which becomes an obsession.
Isolating himself from anyone who might help him understand what he’s feeling, he channels his fury into his javelin, getting better and better until he is a local champion. But his success is fleeting, as wholly confused and caught up in his own anger, he ends up betraying and humiliating his friends. The Javelin Thrower is the story of an erotic education turned tragic, poisoned by the darkness running through Mussolini’s Italy.