|Recently I had an interesting debate over an age-old folk dance form from Maharashtra “Lavani”, also called as “ Tamasha”. Being an artist myself, I feel the wrath when modernity relegates this aesthetic song-and-dance form as a dying art.
Most Indian dance forms originated in temples. The dance forms are associated with Adhyatma (spiritualism). Lavani, which started as fun, play entertainment during the Maratha regime, received a boost in the medieval age. Tamasha, tracing its origins to the Peshwa(Prime Minister) era, has been the source of entertainment and amusement for the rural Marathi audience for more than a century. It also served as a form of entertainment and morale booster for the war-worn soldiers. Lavani, which is the essence of any Tamasha performance, is considered, and rightly so, as the folk art form of Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
The word Lavani originates from "Lavanya", meaning beauty. Earlier, this art form dealt with different subject matters such as society, religion, politics, romance, etc. Lavani was used as a musical discussion. It is a combination of traditional song and dance, which particularly performed to the enchanting beats of 'Dholak', a kind of drum . The songs have a quick tempo. Dance is performed by a group of women wearing nine-yard saris also called as 'Paithanis'.
In recent years, this dance form confronts several problems; exploitation of the dancers, hypocrisy of society, lack of funds, no national/international acclaim and caste bias.
Some say Tamasha is exploitative and anti-women. Few say, Tamasha is wicked and vile. Are these comments justified? What they tend to ignore is that Tamasha is an art form which has the marvellous felicity to permit a performance of Zada Khaal Cha Tamasha, when there is no stage or a Khaddi Gammat Tamasha which is performed on the feet whole night or a Powada in Vidharbha; or Vithabai Mang or Chandrakant Dhavphulkar performing in Narayangaon; or a Lok Shahirs criticism of Lord Rama for deserting his wife; or a Songadya (Jester) who ridicules a Minister in a bungling fodder scam.
So now the question arises, what poses a bigger threat to this dance form? In my view, it is the mindset of people that needs to change. I found Lavani to be a beautiful way to emote a women’s feelings. The way we have embraced sensuous foreign dances like Salsa and Jive, the same way we should bestow Lavani with its much deserved respect and acceptance.
I could not stop sharing a quote here that bears the zest of any Lavani dancer- “We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness, we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers, we create the dreams.”
Raising a toast for all these dreamers...Cheers :-)