EVEN THOUGH Lavani has been part of the popular culture, not many have explored its fascinating world and different forms. The Bhushan Korgaonkar-directed play Lavani Ke Rang, which premiered during Prithvi Theatre Festival last month, provides a lively peek into the world of Lavani artists, who are known as much for their enchanting art form as for their playfulness.
This Sunday, Lavani Ke Rang returns to Prithvi Theatre with two shows, at 5 pm and 8 pm. With the aim of giving the community the control over their narrative, the play makes the fictional owner of a Lavani dance threatre, Kaminibai Jamkhedkar, essayed by actor Geetanjali Kulkarni, take the audience through the art form’s journey over the years. In the course of the 90-minute-long play, she also introduces the audience to its many forms and flavours, apart from contextualising them.
Sharing his idea behind the play, Korgaonkar says: “The Lavani performances that we get to watch are mostly uni-dimensional. They are fast-paced with acrobatic movements. These artists usually present some routine pieces.” Through Lavani Ke Rang, he hopes to “acquaint the audience with the whole spectrum” of this art form. The play features Samajik Lavani, which features a social message; Baithakachi Lavani in which the artist performs while being seated; and Khadi Lavani which is dance-based. Two of the play’s interesting pieces are Chhakkad and Andharatalya Lavanya (translates to Lavanis of the dark). Traditional Chhakkad composition, which is usually fast-paced, has six words in one line and six stanzas. Andharatalya Lavanya is performed in an intimate space and the songs are less inhibited.
Even though Lavani enjoys popular attention, its practitioners often don’t enjoy the limelight. Korgaonkar intends to familiarise the audience with the art form, its social context and the matriarchal system of its community of artists. “We also wanted to give voice to the hereditary Sangeet Bari artists and tell their stories,” says Korgaonkar, who has also written the play. Traditionally, male audience attended Lavani performances. The play wishes to draw a wider audience irrespective of their gender and class.
The show, which comprises live Lavani performances, features Lavani artistes such as Pushpa Satarkar, known for her singing; Gauri Jadhav, known for her dance and abhinay; Akshay Malvankar, a cross-dresser male dancer; and the popular Shakuntalabai Nagarkar. On stage, they are accompanied by singer Latabai Waikar as well as musicians Chandrakant Lakhe, Vinayak Javale and Sumit Kudalkar. Together, they roll out different kinds of Lavani – ranging from artistically-rich performances to those seductive and flirtatious numbers.
The first thing that drew Kulkarni (famous for her performance in web-series Gullak and movies Court, Mukti Bhawan) to the production was the opportunity to dress up in Lavani costume. “Most of my roles are non-glamorous. So, this was exciting for me,” says the actor, who is a National School of Drama graduate. She also shares a strong connection with Lavani, having watched several performances at Pune’s Aryabhushan Loknatya Tamasha Theatre. She has also hosted Lavani workshops for local and professional actors at her artist centre in Wada taluka in Palghar district.
Kulkarni, who is looking forward to the Sunday shows, believes that it is important for contemporary artists to collaborate with traditional folk artists. “This helps you grow as an artist and polish your art. It brings in a lot of understanding about live performance and the community of artists,” says Kulkarni, who has learnt Lavani from Nagarkar.