Tamasha (Marathi: तमाशा) is a traditional form of Marathi theatre, often with singing and dancing, widely performed by local or travelling theatre groups within the state of Maharashtra, India. It has also been the subject of several Marathi films. Some Hindi movies have also included Tamasha-themed songs, known as Lavanis, in the past.
Traditional Tamasha is influenced by many Indian art forms and draws from such diverse traditions as kaveli, ghazals, Kathak dance, dashavatara, lalit and kirtan. There are two types of Tamasha: dholki bhaari and the older form, sangeet baari which contains more dance and music than drama. In Maharashtra, the Kolhati groups are traditionally associated with the performance of Tamasha.
The word "Tamasha" is originally from Persian, meaning a show or theatrical entertainment of some kind. The word has spread to Armenian, Hindi, Urdu and Marathi, to mean "fun" or "play". In Armenian language "To do Tamasha" means "To follow an interesting process or entertainment". Colloquially the word has come to represent commotion, or any activity or display with bustle and excitement, sometimes in the sense of "a tempest in a teacup".
Origin and early years
The region of Maharashtra, has had a long theatrical tradition, one of the early references was found in the cave inscriptions at Nashik by Gautami Balashri, the mother of the 1st-century Satavahana ruler, Gautamiputra Satakarni. The inscription mentions him organizing Utsava and Samaja, forms of theatrical entertainment for his subjects.
Tamasha acquired a distinct form in late Peshwa period of Maratha Empire, in the 18th century, and incorporated elements of older traditional forms like Dasavatar, Gondhal, Kirtan, and Waghya-murali, part of Khandoba Bhakti Geet, amongst worshippers of the local god Khandoba.
In Maharashtra, there are two types of Tamasha, first is dholaki fadcha Tamasha and the other is sangeet baaricha Tamasha. Dholaki Fadcha tamasha is complete art, which includes song, dance, and theater. Now in Maharashtra there are only 18 to 20 full-time tamasha parties. Each tamasha mandal performs approximately 210 days in all over Maharashtra and also some border villages of Karnataka and Gujarat.
Traditional Tamasha format consisted of dancing-boys known as Nachya, who also played women's roles, a poet-composer known as Shahir, who played the traditional role of Sutradhar or a jester known as Songadya, who compered the show. However, with time, women started taking part in Tamasha. Marathi theatre made its beginning in 1843, and in the following years, Tamasha which was primarily constituted of singing and dancing expanded its thematic repertoire and added small dramatic and humorous skits, known as vag, to it. These were either in prose or comprised long narrative poems performed by the Shahir along with his chorus, with actors improvising their lines. Popular Vag composers of the time were Patthe Bapurao and Dattoba Sali, and one of their noted vag, Gadhavache Lagna (Marriage of Donkey) was popularized by Tamasha artist, Dadu Idurikar. Soon, noted Marathi writers started written Vags for Tamasha troupes.
As the textile industry started developing in Mumbai (then Bombay) in the 19th century, workers migrated here from the rural areas in large numbers. Soon their theatre did too, initially rural tamasha companies were invited to the city for performances. Though later numerous local tamasha companies flourished, patronized by mill workers living in Girgaum.
Traditional tamasha practitioners were from castes like Kolhati, Mahar, Mang and Bhatu from rural regions of Maharashtra, labelled low castes within the Indian caste system. Thus, in the late 19th century, religious reformers employed tamasha to castigate the caste system of the region. During the same period, Satyashodhak Samaj founded by Jyotirao Phule started organizing Satyashodhaki jalsa, which used the tamasha tradition in its political and reformist theatre, which was an amalgamation of proscenium tamasha and street theatre.
The rise of modern Marathi theatre movement in the post-independence era, which was largely "literary drama" from with a Westernized idiom, tamasha like other prevalent indigenous theatre forms, like jatra in Bengal and bhavai in Gujarat, was also deemed "debased", even "corrupt", while being relegated to being only "folk" form. The turning away of urban middle class audience from traditional forms, cause a disruption in the theatrical traditions besides creating a divide between urban and rural theatre, as tamasha continued to flourish out the urban pockets.
In 2002, the state had 450 tamasha troupes with approximately 10,000 artistes.
Main elements of tamasha, like loud humour, suggestive lyrics and dance numbers, proved influential in the development the Bollywood idiom, which is based in Mumbai. Even today, the mainstream cinema or Masala films, complete with their suggestive dance numbers, now known as item number, and humour sequences remain largely entertainment oriented.
Over the years, some modern theatre practitioners have incorporated the traditional forms like tamasha and dashavatar into their plays. In the 1970s, during the rise of modernMarathi theatre, the tamasha form was employed as narrative device and style in several notable plays like Ghashiram Kotwal by Vijay Tendulkar, Vijaya Mehta's Marathi adaptations of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Woman of Setzuan as Devajine Karuna Keli (1972) and Caucasian Chalk Circle as Ajab Nyaya Vartulacha (1974), P. L. Deshpande's Teen paishacha Tamasha (1978), an adaptation of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera.
In popular culture
The 1972, Marathi hit film, Pinjra directed by V. Shantaram, starring Shriram Lagoo and Sandhya in lead roles was set in the Tamasha musical theatre. Besides this other Marathi films made of Tamasha include, Sangte Aika (1959) directed by Anand Mane and starring Jayshree Gadkar, Sawaal Majha Aika! (1964) by Anant Mane and starring Jayshree Gadkar, Ek Hota Vidushak (1992) by Jabbar Patel, Natarang (2010) by Ravi Jadhav and Tamasha - Hach Khel Udya Punha (2011) by Milind Pednekar.
Tamasha in other languages
- In the Telugu and Kannada language, tamasha means funny.
- In the Kiswahili language "tamasha" means show or festival.
- In Malayalam language, tamasha means joke.
- In the Bengali language, tamasha (or in some dialects tamsha) means joke or messing around.
- In the Chuvash language "tamasha" means distress or curiosity, brings amazement effect into dialogue, and also means fun of silly situation in theatre or life.
- In the Malay language "temasya" means event or festival.
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