Marathi Culture and Festivals

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Bhushan Korgaonkar aims to unveil the faces of the women behind lavani dancers through a unique show that combines excerpts from the book and performances

Writer: Bhushan Korgaonkar

Director: Savitri Medhatul

Artists: Mohanabai Mahalngrekar, Sunita Kalambkar, Latabai Waikar, Shakuntalabai Nagarkar along with music accompanists from Aryabhushan Theatre, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Omkar Govardhan

Lavani is a traditional dance form of Maharashtra with a rich heritage of several centuries.  Although Lavani is gaining popularity as a traditional folk dance, in popular media its portrayal is limited to being an item number. The rich heritage of Lavani is slowly dying and will soon be completely forgotten.

Most women, who start dancing in Sangeet Bari (traditional Lavani theaters), belong to nomadic tribes such as Bhatu Kolhati, Dombari and Kalwaat. The women of these communities have been performing Lavani for centuries. Now due to poverty young girls from other economically backward communities are also joining this profession. The girls are initiated in this profession at a very young age (12-15years). The initiation is conducted by tying of ghungroo and after this they are not allowed to get married. They are expected to be under patronage of a man whom they call Malak (owner). This man is expected to take care of all their needs, but in most cases this patronage is superficial and women are left to fend for themselves. There are many women who rose above all the difficulties and social stigma and became award winning dancers viz. Padmashree Yamunabai Waikar, Roshan Satarkar, Sangeet Natak Academy winners Laxmibai Kolhapurkar, Shakuntalabai Nagarkar, etc.

According to the writer:

We were introduced to this hidden world of lavani dancers nearly 10 years ago and it fascinated us. We travelled extensively to various Sangeet Bari Theaters across Maharashtra and were able to meet the Lavani women and observe their lives closely. Our first venture with Lavani was the documentary film in 2008 called ‘Natale Tumchya Saathi- behind the adorned veil’. With the wealth of these amazing life stories, came the critically acclaimed book ‘Sangeet Bari’ in Marathi, published by Rajhans Prakashan. The book focuses on the lives of these women and attempt to portray them as artists and human beings unlike the popular image of a seductress.