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Two recent books focus on the life histories of courtesan performers

Saba Dewan

New Delhi,ISSUE DATE: Jul 10, 2023 | UPDATED: Jun 30, 2023 19:43 IST

(Left) Courting Hindustan: The Consuming Passions of Iconic Women Performers of India, by Madhur Gupta | Rupa | Rs 295; 208 pages; (Right) Sahela Re, by Mrinal Pande, translated by Priyanka Sarkar | HarperCollins | Rs 499; 268 pages

(Left) Courting Hindustan: The Consuming Passions of Iconic Women Performers of India, by Madhur Gupta | Rupa | Rs 295; 208 pages; (Right) Sahela Re, by Mrinal Pande, translated by Priyanka Sarkar | HarperCollins | Rs 499; 268 pages

Highly trained, professional female singers, dancers and entertainers, called tawaifs in northern India and devadasis in the south, have disappeared from contemporary India’s cultural and social life. Refracted through a prism of sexual morality, their memory lives on, however, in popular literature and films as either scheming seductresses or hapless victims in need of redemption.

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