Neha Shende

Direction : Sachin Shinde
Writer : Datta Patil
Cast : Hemant Mahajan, Vikram Nannaware, Nilesh Suryavanshi, Ram wani, Arun Ingle, Rushikesh Shelar, Rajendra Ugale, Krushna Shirsath, Praveen Jadhav, Shubham Landge, Kiran Raobacche, Vaibhavi Chavan, Samrudhi Gangurde, Kavita Desai and Rushikesh Patil


Kalgitura, an ancient folk-art tradition from Maharashtra, that had slowly disappeared at the turn of the century, but was revived by artistes a little over a decade ago. KALGITURA, written by Datta Patil and directed by Sachin Shinde, is a play that tells the story of this revival.

As part of this tradition, worshippers of the Kalgi sect (those who worship Shakti, or the primordial feminine power) and of the Tura sect (worshippers of Lord Shiva) perform songs and lavni, the lyrics and compositions of which were passed down as part of the oral traditions of this region, during fairs, funerals, religious festivals, and naming ceremonies to celebrate happiness and to ease the pain of grief and loss.

A Kalgitura performance usually involves members of both sects engaging in a sawal-jawab where members of one sect ask a riddle to the other through a song and which the other sect attempts to answer via another song and then vice versa. These performances are often used to inform the audience about mythological characters, religion, philosophy, and history. The singers are accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments like dholkis, halgis, tuntunas, etc.

The story unfolds as a young researcher from the city goes to the village of Parsul, and there, the local politician explains the history of the artform to her and how after finding old Kalgitura lavni lyrics buried in the backyard, he put together a group of musicians and helps revive the tradition.

The play ruminates on various themes - folk art fading away in the face of competition from modern forms of entertainment, the uncertain life of an artist, community, religious discrimination and finally, death - the grief felt at the loss of a loved one, and sometimes, even the absurdity that surrounds death.

These are all important subjects that one must reflect on. But really, the true success of this play is how beautifully it manages to bring the atmosphere of rural Maharashtra to life: the dark evenings and the pitch black nights in the little village, the sounds of the crickets, the dim yellow lights, an old Hindi song from the 80s playing on the radio, the stone idols of goddesses in the temple colored orange with shendur, villagers sitting under a tree talking about celebrating Shimga - the regional word for Holi - with a Kalgitura performance, or a group of men sitting around a bonfire during the cold night, chatting away.

And what's genius is that all this is done with minimal fixed sets. Each character brings in their own prop with them and without seeming at all jarring, it becomes part of the scene - even the stone idols are brought in, in a palanquin, and after the characters move out of the temple, the idols are respectfully taken away by some side characters.

The music by Rushikesh Shelar deserves a special mention. Songs like Ya Mati Mandi that create an almost tribal sound, perhaps meant to evoke the legacy of the villagers' musician ancestors or Daha ni Bara Miluni Gavlani one of the only songs sung by a woman in the play, are an absolute aural delight.

The play might be best described as one reminiscent of that legendary Mahesh Elkunchwar trilogy with the addition of some beautiful musical pieces. There is so much to unpack here that the performance will play on your mind long after you leave the theatre.

*Neha Shende is an avid theatre-goer and enjoys watching old Bollywood movies in her free time.

   KALGITURA Play Schedule(s)
 7:00 PM, Sun, April 21 Shreeram Lagoo Rang Avakash, Pune (map link)

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