Friday, July 22, 2016

Messengers of social reform

I had chatted with Dr Ramchandra Dekhane. Here's the interview

Around 800 years ago, the sant sampraday (saint community) of Maharashtra wanted to reach out to the masses. They knew that their attempt to bring about a renaissance in society through writing would be limited to a niche segment. By then, folk artists like Vasudev, Kadak Lakshmi, Pingala and Joshi had already made inroads into the villages. They entertained the villagers through their acts. Sant Eknath and others then decided that these folk artists would be the messengers of social reform,” explains Dr Ramchandra Dekhane, a research scholar in the field of folk art and saint literature.

These folk artistes were called the ‘Bahurupi Kalakar’ or multi-faceted artists. The Bahurupi, down the ages, began to be referred to as Bharud. “Bharud is a spiritual folk art. It is also a full-fledged form of sant/ saint literature and is connected with the kirtan tradition of Maharashtra. It is also associated with folk art. As a performance, Bharud has natya (drama), samvad (dialogue), lok kala (folk art) and manoranjan (entertainment). Thanks to all these elements, we can say that modern Marathi theatre has its roots in Bharud,” points out Dekhane.

The research scholar, who is also a Bharud performer and has trained people, is gearing up to host the 2,100th show of Bahurupi Bharud on Saturday evening at Bal Gandharva Rang Mandir.

Talking about the show, Dekhane says, “Marathi manoos is well-acquainted with Bharud, but the tradition is slowly going into extinction mode. So this is our attempt to rejuvenate it. The USP of the show is that we have retained the originality and authenticity of the folk performances. We have used old instruments like the sambal, chaughada, dholki and mridang. The show starts with dindi (the annual walk warkari pilgrims undertake from Alandi and Dehu to Pandharpur via Pune, chanting Lord Vitthala’s name) in which we will explain and perform vatchali, abhang, jaatyavarchi ovi and fugadi. The dindi will be followed by acts of Vasudev, Kadak Lakshmi, Vedi, Vinchu, Gondhal and Jogwa. The two-and-a-half hour show will come to a close with the rendition of Raaga Bhairavi and Pasaydan.”

The 40-member team of Bahurupi Bharud draws into its fold artists as well laymen, who want to experience the cultural ethos. “Some members of the original team continue to be a part of it, along with teachers, lawyers, entrepreneurs. Many of them who had watched the show, came to us later saying, ‘I can play dholki and I would like to join your troupe.’ Or ‘I want to dance in the dindi.’ We have welcomed them. Rehearsals are important, but more than that, it’s the spontaneous outpouring of emotions and connecting with the compositions by the saints that sets their performance apart,” he points out.

Dekhane points out that not all Bharuds are performance-oriented. The social message or drawing attention to social ills can also be conveyed through bhajans.

- Vasudev’s character signifies the act of daan or giving alms. It means to help the needy and those in distress. This is one value that we need to cherish and subscribe to even in modern society. “In fact, in present times, the act of donating blood connects with the values that Vasudev is trying to preach,” points out Dekhane.
- Kadak Lakshmi is not a comment on fierce women with tyrannical tendencies. Sant Eknath through his compositions had tried to invoke Kadak Lakshmi, a metaphor for Adi Shakti or Adi Maya. “The use of the whip in Kadak Lakshmi’s hand is not meant to be used physically, to flog oneself, but it has to be used to crack down on perverse practices. It’s a metaphor to fight off the evil spreading in society,” says Dekhane.
- Vinchu or scorpion bite is compared to the six evils or Shadripu — kaam (lust), krodh (anger), mada (pride), maya (wealth), moha (attachment) and matsar (envy). If you have to fight off these tendencies, then truth is your armour.

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