Theatre

Fragrance from unknown lands

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The lavani performers at this year’s Rangashankara Theatre Festival opened up another world to the audience and The Hunger Artiste held a mirror to the plight of farmers

On the fourth day of this year’s theatre festival at Rangashankara on Laughter and Forgetting, curated by Sandbox Collective, Bangaloreans witnessed the magnetism and charm of the wonderful art form of Lavani from Maharashtra that left the audience wanting more. The evening began with the screening of Paromita Vohra’s film, made in association with the Kali billi productions called “The amorous adventure of Shakku and Megha in the Valley of Consent.” The film though very short conveyed a strong message very effectively. It was all about understanding “consent”. The whole narrative was narrated through a comical lavani piece and was hilarious.

This was followed by “Lets Lavani”, which inspired people to learnsignature Lavani moves from the enigmatic Akanksha Kadam.

The play “Sangeeth Bari”, had the house full, with the audience drenching themselves in the beauty of Lavani culture. The play seamlessly painted a huge canvas of this art form, its gharanas, its artists, its customers and their lives. An unassumingly calm Bhushan Korgaonkar narrated lines from his book on the same subject with clarity and impact. The director and co narrator of the play Savitri Medhatul was perky, flirtatious and brilliantly engaging. She held all the strings together with her stage presence and wit. The play was structured beautifully to bring out all the facets of the art and to portray all its colours with grandeur and soul. There was not a moment of exaggeration in the whole presentation. It silently broke the patriarchal ego, caste bias, class bias and gender disparity by giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless artists. The play did not try to forcefully stand for anything. It just drew the picture of the Lavani form with simplicity and sincerity.

The whole auditorium transformed into a “Tamasha Theatre,” while the audience broke into long applause, whistles and claps. Different forms of Lavani were presented. While Akanksha Kadam shimmered with her energy and confidence, Pushpa Satarkar sang with a voice that pierced every heart . Lataji another vocalist with a mellow demeanour sang with an open throat that spoke of a lineage, that has survived through so many journeys. The equal space given to the dholki and tabla artistes to showcase their expertise too was commendable.

The show stealer was of course Shakuntala Nagarkar, a legendary artiste whose mere stage presence was proof of her art. With her comic timing, strong expressions and command over the space she threw audiences into roars of laughter. In the last Qawwali , Shakuntalaji sang with so much conviction and character that it created an ambiance of unparalleled melancholy. The beauty of this experience was tailored very intelligently. From funny stories of flirting, explaining why in this world the artistes consciously chose to call their patrons customers and not audience, stories of love, marriages, discrimination, loss and even the slow death that this art seems to be walking towards, the narrators allowed the audience to appreciate, understand and empathise with this art.

Bhusan and Savitri proudly claimed that this was perhaps the only (or one of the very few) art form that touched on sexuality, eroticism and love without involving gods in the picture. It spoke from the heroine’s voice and did so unabashedly. While all the dancing and adaakari created this charisma, after the show ended the audience remained moved. One couldn’t stop thinking how in the south we have lost so much of the hereditary culture of the Devadasi’s because of the Act that spelt doom for their artistry. If such a thing had not happened, there would perhaps be Devadasi women among the audience who would rise to perform a padam or javali.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 1:47:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/fragrance-from-unknown-lands/article29973000.ece

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