In this article Arya Madhavan examines the significance of the female protagonist Asti from the new Kathakali play, A Tale from Magadha (2015), in the four-hundred-year-old patriarchal history of Kathakali. The play is authored by Sadanam Harikumar, a Kathakali playwright and actor, whose contemporary retelling of Hindu myths and epics afford substantial agency to the female characters, compelling radical reimagining of Kathakali’s gender norms and a reconsideration of the significance of female characters, both on the stage and in the text. Asti unsettles the conventional norms of womanhood that have defined and structured the ‘Kathakali woman’ over the last five centuries. Although several new Kathakali plays have been created in recent decades, they seldom include strong female roles, so Harikumar’s plays, and his female characters in particular, deserve a historic place in the Kathakali tradition, whose slowly changing gender norms are here analyzed for the first time. Arya Madhavan is a senior lecturer in the University of Lincoln. She has been developing the research area of women in Asian performance since 2013 and edited Women in Asian Performance: Aesthetics and Politics (Routledge, 2017). She is a performer of Kutiyattam, the oldest Sanskrit theatre form from India, and serves as associate editor for the Indian Theatre Journal.