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Tamasha: Traditional Theatre Art Form of Maharashtra

Kali Billi Productions’ Sangeet Bari
Kali Billi Productions’ Sangeet Bari (Photos: Kunal Vijayakar)

A tamasha is a traditional theatre art form of Maharashtra, prevailing since the 18th century in most parts of rural Maharashtra. Tamasha was exclusively performed by boys and young men due to varied reasons. During the reign of kings, varied stories were narrated and enacted through the medium of music, dance, acting and dialogue delivery. Playing a key role in a tamasha is the vidushak or songadya (comedian). The comedian is also the coordinator, who narrates the entire story with jokes in between that indirectly portray the ills of society in a humorous manner.

The popular folk dance of Maharashtra known as lavani forms an integral part of a tamasha. While lavani is extremely popular in urban areas, the tamasha is still more prevalent in rural areas, wherein thousands are attracted to watch and be entertained with a night-long performance. There are around 15,000 families who are practitioners of this art form, and include dancers, musicians, make-up artists and other technical staff involved in the organisation of a performance.

Significance of the tamasha and its evolution

Tamasha literally means ‘dispeller of darkness’ in Marathi. It can be traced to the 18th century when Peshwa spies picked up the art from Mughal military camps and made it their own. The traditional lavani, a forerunner of tamasha, was an amalgamation of kavya (poetry), sangeet (music) and abhinay (acting).

Cover of the May 2022 issue of The Teenager Today featuring Rohan Singhal

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Guru Vijay Shanker is a professional Kuchipudi-Kathakali exponent, actor, choreographer and arts critic for more than four decades.

Guru Vijay Shanker

Guru Vijay Shanker is a professional Kuchipudi-Kathakali exponent, actor, choreographer and arts critic for more than four decades.