“Please come watch our new show that just opened. The name of the show is Sangeet Bari. ” Said a guy handing me a flyer at Prithvi theatre while I was standing in a line to get in for another play there. The flyer talked about veteran Lavani performers and research about Lavani.
“You must go and watch Sangeet Bari! Amazing Performance!” My friend was all impressed about the performance. Heard the same from few other friends as well.
I was waiting to watch the performance but could not get to it.
Lavani is the popular traditional/ folk dance of Maharashtra. The sole purpose of the dance is entertainment for men. So of course the songs and dances has a strong undercurrent of romance and erotica but in an aesthetic way. Lavani has been one of my many weaknesses. I had danced Lavani in a play for some time way back when. Once you are hooked to Lavani, caught for life.
And then I was in a meeting with the writer Bhushan Korgaonkar (the same guy who handed the flyer) and the director Savitri Medhatul (both producers as well) to design set n costumes for the same show. The show has completed a yr n half since the opening and now the makers had decided to move it up a notch by adding set and costumes.
The dance tradition Lavani is not only a style of dance. It is the lifestyle and livelihood of certain communities for generations. It is a different mindset, different sphere of society with different rules.
There are many Lavani dance shows that are around. Sangeet Bari is definitely not one of them. It is not just a dance show. Although dance performances are integral part of Sangeet Bari, it offers a lot more than that. It takes you to the world of Lavani performers.
“Sangeet Bari is a theatre production which combines multiple narratives such as the lavani woman, the musicians, the customer and the researcher / narrator. It also includes live Lavani performance of old traditional lavani which are either unknown or forgotten. This is our humble attempt at creating a platform for the Lavani woman to tell us her story.” (From the production’s official brochure.)
The set designing of this show was very easy and very difficult at the same time. The set needed to create mood of the space. It needed to give out just enough and not overpower the performance.
The performance takes you to the different world of Lavani performers. This world has a all different aspects of their life with a background of glimmer of Lavani. This is exactly what I have tried to capture in the set. I decided to keep ‘Rangamahaal’ (रंगमहाल) as the base theme for the set.
Rangamahaal means a palace of a courtesan or private chamber in a palace of a courteasan to be precise. It can be translated literally as a palace of colours. Combining these two the concept of Rangamhaal can be explained as; it is a place where a male patron is entertained by the performer with songs and dances and flirting while making him forget all the worries and stress of his actual life.
This show is performed at many places and dimensions of the performance place may differ drastically for every show. Also it is a travelling show with small number of team members. This called for the set to be minimalistic and more fluid in terms of dimensions and lay out of the set pieces.
The research for the decor of the Tamasha theatres (where Lavani is performed traditionally) has absolutely kitschy feel to it. I tried to pick things from that.
I put together the key words like non overpowering, rangamahaal, minimalistic, fluid and kitsch. With these words I came up with a set that worked more like accents adding to the character of the whole space. I decided to avoid golden and other metallic shiny touches in the set because that was going to be part of the costumes.
The accents were
1. A quilt made from two irakal sarees – To cover the seating arrangement for the percussionists. The seating arrangement can be a single futon like mattress or just a level.
2. Quilted stripes made from irakal saree borders – To line the musicians’ area. To be laid out on the floor.
3. A fabric pillar made with semi transparent muslin with colourful flowers and lights inside.
4. A panel with a dancer painting on it.
5. Low rise stools where the narrators can sit with their legs folded
6. Smaller panels with line sketches of outer part of a tamasha theatre including boards with names and instructions. These panels do not have a specific place assigned to them. If we are performing in proscenium setup, the panels will be put on the outside walls facing audience and right next to where the curtain ends. But these panels can be displayed at the entrance of the auditorium as well. It can be decided differently for each show.
Here are the illustrations for set pieces and ground-plan of the set.
Costume wise, they needed to have the exact look of regular Lavani performers. Them being the actual lavani performers, they already have taken care of the ensemble of a performer. They all know how to wear the nine yard sarees gracefully may the saree is draped or stitched. These days you get to see nine yard saris worn in absolutely horrible and unflattering way. Be it in mega films like Ba****** *****ni or the weddings one attend. In that light, not having to tell them to make sure one side of the palloo goes from under the right knee makes me break into a happy happy happy song. Anyway, costume wise all I did was specify everyone’s colours and colour combinations including the dancers, singer, musicians and narrators.
All this work will come alive in a performance on March 31’st 2017, 8pm at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu. Please come to the show. Here is the link for booking the tickets.
See you there