Dancing queenshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/dancing-queens/

Dancing queens

Since time eternal Lavani as an art form has been associated with Maharashtra,just as puppet theatre has been to Rajasthan or Jatra has been to West Bengal.

For Savitri Medhatul and Bhushan Korgaonkar their first film based on the lives of Lavani dancers,is a tribute to their talent as dancers and strength as women

Since time eternal Lavani as an art form has been associated with Maharashtra,just as puppet theatre has been to Rajasthan or Jatra has been to West Bengal. However finally two people have finally come up with a story portraying the lives of these women and the behind the stage experiences that they undergo whilst pursuing this profession.

For Savitri Medhatul and Bhushan Korgaonkar,their maiden film- Natale Tumchyasathi – Behind the adorned veil has been an eye opener of sorts. Telling more about their experiences,Bhushan says,“I had worked as a freelancer some years back where I had done a story on Lavani dancers,that’s when the idea had struck that maybe this was something that could be pursued a bit more. Eventually I ran into Savitri who shared my enthusiasm and was keen to work on making a film. That’s how we ended up making the film.”

The film deals with the behind and onscreen lives of the Lavani dancers from the traditional Sangeet Bari community,where dancers live in theatres and perform daily. There are close to thirty such Sangeet Bari theatres and each theatre has approximately nine dance-groups attached to it. The artists usually belong to dancing communities such as Kolhati,Dombari and Kalwat. They have to dance at daily stage shows and also give private performances. Stage shows are held every evening where each dance-group is assigned a fixed time of fifteen minutes to perform. Private performances are held in special rooms where an audience requests for a performance by a particular dance-group,adds Savitri who is the director of the film.

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But not all is rosy and sweet for these women dancers who have to deal with a lot of personal issues in their personal life. Speaking about the other side of their lives Bhushan says,“Dancers from the Sangeet Bari community are not allowed to get married. They however have a ritual in their community,which is similar to marriage,where they owe their loyalty to a person. The children born to these women are mostly out of wedlock. The men who come to watch these performances usually end up having relations with them,but in most cases they refuse to accept the responsibility of a child born out of it.”

Savitri who spent a good deal of time interacting with the dancers and living with them says,“the experience of staying with them is an incredible high. All of them,be it Mohanabai Mahalangrekar,Kesarbai Ghadge or Shakuntalabai Nagarkar are some of the most honest and nicest people one will ever encounter in their lives. Not only are they nice but they are extremely strong willed and determined. However living with them and interacting with them in close quarters there would be times when they would shed aside their masks and they would show their true side which depicted a women desperately in search of basic happiness in her life. This was heart rendering to watch. A probable reason as to why the director in me constantly reminded me that this was a story that just had to be told for the beauty attached to it.”

The movie,which is of an hour’s duration,depicts the on stage performances of some of the dancers captured live while they were performing on stage or in a private performance (Baithak) room. It also features their daily life,the theatres where they all stay,their kitchen,the auditorium and much more. The women also talk about their life,their art,the social angle attached to this art form,their denied status,the new generation of dancers,and their future plans.

“The movie was produced on a shoe string budget over a period of two years. However for us the thought that this story had to be told egged us along. Another fact that inspired us was that there were girls from the educated urban background like Akanksha Kadam,Megha Ghadge,and Gauri Jadhav who have taken up this line as a profession. At the end of the day we were proud of the fact that we had made a good film. Whatever might be the case later on,whether we are able to release it on a big scale or no the very fact that we managed to get their story across to some people and that we made some lifelong friends in these amazing people whose story we have tried to tell,was the biggest high for us,” says Bhushan with a smile.

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