Tamasha of My Memories

Tamasha is a folk art practised in Maharashtra for the last four hundred years. There are two forms of Tamasha – Dholkiphad and Sangitbari. This play is based on the lives of artistes of the Sangitbari form of Tamasha. Lavani is a musical performance, which speaks of the various aspects of a man-woman relationship. Sangitbari basically consists of a number of Lavanis.

The performer in a Lavani is always a woman. These women are from various tribes residing in Maharashtra; namely – Bhatu Kolati, Mali Kolati and Kalvat. Conventionally the Lavani performer is bound by several social norms – one being that she isn’t allowed to marry. The performance of Lavani involves the women performing in front of a largely male audience that they engage in a flirtatious manner. These women often tour with their performances, have relationships and also have children.

Presently, these women are earnestly trying to provide their children with an education irrespective of their sex. They do not force their daughters to accept performing Lavanis as their profession, which was the usual practice in the past.

The Play

Hira is a Tamasha performer, and Ratna is her daughter and a journalist. Ratna wishes to interview her mother about her art and her life. Hira asks Ratna about the reason for her sudden curiosity in the life of a Tamasha performer. Ratna explains that after seeing the world she has understood the value of Tamasha as an art form and also the immense courage and determination of a Tamasha performer. Hira strongly refuses to give the interview. Hira refuses to make her life and its challenges bait for public consumption. She refuses to present her story through someone other than her.

She chooses to tell her story herself. At this point, she starts talking directly to the audience narrating her memories. She talks about her relationship with her mother who was also a Tamasha dancer. Then she reflects on her father, some of her mother’s clients, her childhood, and how she became a Tamasha dancer. She then talks about her own clients, her colleagues, and the man in her life – the way the relationship developed etc. Along with this talk, she also interjects a few Lavani performances in between. Hira while talking to the audience addresses Ratna as if Ratna is sitting in the audience. The development of the play is based on the relationship and the ongoing conflict with Ratna.