Tamasha artistes are struggling for recognition

Pranita Roy
Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Study conducted by SPPU reveals their piteous condition

PUNE: Though folk dance forms are getting a platform and are recognised, artistes of tamasha, Maharashtra’s very own folk theatre, are deprived of this recognition. This fact was again underlined according to a study done by the Department of Anthropology of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU). The study revealed that these artistes live a life of alienation and discrimination. 

Head of Anthropology Department and Co-Investigator of the study of ‘Socio-cultural Aspects of Tamasha Kalawants and Tamasha Workers in Junnar Tehsil’, Anjali Kurane stated, “The dance form has received applause in the film and theatre industry across the country. Many of the group leaders or organisers have received Padmashri awards. But the tamasha artistes have argued that when actresses dance on ‘lavani’ they are highly appreciated, but are always demeaned by the society.”

“They argued that these actresses dance wearing skimpy or less clothes to look glamorous but at the same time when these performers dance wearing nauvari sarees they are stated as vulgar. Moreover many fictional representations of tamasha are fake. In reality, men don’t perform dressed as women as shown on television programmes and films,” said Professor Satish Shirsath from Department of Lifelong Learning and Extension who was also the principal investigator in the study.

The study highlights their challenges in livelihood with no socio-economic status, discrimination and exploitation.

The total study samples consist of 116 ‘tamasha kalawants’ (main dancers) over 14 ‘tamasha fads’ (groups) including the main dancers, side artistes and others who participate in bringing forth the programme.

Tamasha is hereditary dance form which has been passed on from generations. As per the study, it has been found that 90 per cent of these artistes have the talent for dancing and performance by inheritance. Five per cent are part of it because of poor financial background and the other five per cent are those who have an interest in dance.

“Out of the 16 kalawants (main dancers), 10 had never been to school, while few had passed Std VI, but none of them has passed the Std 10 Board examination. Education has been low among these people. However, now the new generation does provide education to their children but at times their children say they are ashamed of their mothers’ work and ask them to not pursue it further. The female child is still pulled towards this profession,” said Kurane.

“Since most of the women are the sole bread earners in the family, their family supports them in the work,” added Kurane.

Often they are not allowed to put up their tents in villages. So these groups settle at the banks of river where they can easily wash their clothes, take bath and cook in open. “The women have no other option but to take bath in open. They are not generally welcomed in anybody’s house. The female artistes said that if any woman out of concern allows them to take bath in their house then their husbands would fight with them,” said Kurane.

“Their active working span is from October to May. In these seven months, they carry everything along with them. After this they mostly survive on whatever they have earned in these few months or take temporary jobs ,” added Kurane.

As several reports in the past have highlighted the trauma of oppression and exploitation faced by the female artistes. The study has highlighted some of the problems they face while performing like verbal and nonverbal abuse, drunk men try to touch them, and more.

“They are unaware of any government scheme applicable for them. When we asked if the government helps them in any way, they told us the government gives no facilities to them. Five out of 10 might get pensions when they submit their documents at the Sanskrutik Bhavan in Mumbai,” said the head.

The study highlighted that even after submitting piles of documents to get financial help from the government, no money or help has reached their end so far. When the researchers from the department tried to find if any government schemes are available for these groups, they didn’t find any.

“However, they are used as vote banks. Several parties offer them money and include them in their election campaigns. But none of their issues has ever been addressed by any party or government. Theydon’t have any unions or organisations or a representative who can take their demands and issues to any political groups,” said Shirsath.

Addiction is a common and huge factor observed among them. Even the women are seen addicted to tobacco, misri, drugs etc. Their eating habits are also irregular due to the disturbed lifestyle and odd working hours. They mostly depend on instant food and don’t consume healthy and nutritious food.

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