The Great Indian Tamasha

2A still from Making of a Tamasha

It WAS in the year 2010 that Sanjay Maharishi began filming a tamasha titled Saiyan Bhaye Kotwal being performed by the students of National School of Drama (NSD) in the sleepy town of Baramati, Maharashtra. For the uninititiated, tamasha is a Marathi folk art form which is performed by travelling theatre groups. Soon enough, Maharishi decided to turn it into a documentary, an effort to chronicle the working method of contemporary theatre directors and draw the audince's attention towards the dying art of tamasha. Maharishi has called it Making of a Tamasha, a 46-minute film which is one of the films in the three-part series.

"When we had decided to create the series, the purpose was to help students understand and study theatre. But then I realised there are a lot of people who aren't directly related to theatre, but are interested in knowing and understanding how it works," said Sanjay Maharishi after the screening of the documentary at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (INGCA) on Wednesday.

"While there were as many as 50 tamasha troupes in the days leading upto the globalisation, now there are hardly eight or 10. With television in each household and the rowdy crowd that insists on rangbaazi (slapstick comedy bordering on bawdy) over gan (Marathi for content), tamasha troupes are losing their audience," says Aniruddha Khutwad, who was the director of Saiyan Bhaye Kotwal.

None of the students in the film is from Maharashtra but the artform, the way its presented in the documentary, is quite close to the original. "The students took appreciation classes for 10 days where various tamasha performers were invited to talk to them about the art form. Besides that, we took them to a nearby village where tamasha was being performed so they could see how the troupe really worked both on and off stage," said Khutwad.

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