Hasya: Comedy, Humor and Satire in Indian Traditions SERIES


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Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

Hasya: Comedy, Humor and Satire in Indian Traditions SERIES

A film by Sanjay Maharishi
Duration: 46 minutes

May 8th, 2013 at 5 pm

Venue: Media Centre Auditorium, IGNCA, 3, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi 110 001
Film screening will be followed by a discussion with Sanjay Maharishi and Aniruddha Khutwad



Making of a Tamasha was filmed in 2010 with student actors of the National School of Drama in the small town of Baramati, Maharashtra. The film is part of a series of films that chronicles the working method of contemporary theatre directors. These films were made keeping in mind young as well as veteran theatre practitioners, directors and actors on one hand and theatre enthusiasts and aficionados who may not be directly practicing but form an essential part of the audience.

In the film, the students work with director Aniruddha Khutwad and put together a widely appreciated performance of the Tamasha play Sanya Bhaye Kotwal. The film explores the physical, cultural and mental landscape of the director, his major influences and his way of dealing with challenges in form and content of the Tamasha.

About Tamasha

Tamasha, as the form stands today, is a secular, variety entertainment package, mostly catering to the village people of Maharashtra. Its antecedents have been traced back to the practices of ‘khadi gammat’ (literally meaning ‘entertainment given by standing performers’) by the low caste Mangs and Mahars. It draws from several folk and popular traditions like Jagaran – Gondhal. The Powadas of Shahirs, Dashavtara, the Gavalana of the Marathi saints poets and other elements from Kathak, and has borrowed stage techniques from the Parsi theatre.

While the style of Tamasha varies from region to region in Maharashtra, by and large a Tamasha performance comprises of two broad sections – the Poorvaranga and the Vaga Natya. As in many other traditional theatre forms, the performance is announced by the percussion beats of the Halgiwala and Dholkiwala. Followed by the other instrumentalist, the Tuntunewala (something like Ektatra) and manjirewala (who plays the cymbals). The Poorvaranga proper begins with the Gana – an invocation to Ganesha, sung by all the male members of the Tamasha troupe. This is followed by the Gavalan, a boisterous spin- off on the Krishnalila where two villagers take on the role of Krishna and his accomplice Pendia, and they stop the gavalans (gopis or milkmaids) on the way to the market. This segment, in which the gavlans seek the protection of mousi (the character of a senior aunt, played by a male actor who retains his masculine appearance but dons a suggestive uparna), is filled with wit, innuendos, teasing and farcical elements, as well as dance.

Next is the Rangbaaji (performing lavani songs) which ingeniously serves to entertain the audience while actors change into their costumes for the Vag Natya. The Batawani is a comic interlude, in which the Sardar (Shahir) and the Songadya (vidushak or jester) vie with each other in telling exaggerated and bombastic tales in a point-and-counterpoint fashion. Then begins the Vag Natya, which is a play proper. Its theme may be drawn from mythology, history, or may be based on social issues, etc. Like the Poorvaranga, the Vag Natya too gives more importance to witty dialogues than to a dramatic action. Vag Natya is infused with lavani songs and dances. The Tamasha performance concludes with the Bhairavi based on raga bhairavi, normally invoking the saint-poets of the Warkari Sampradaay, and the whole show ends in a spirit of bhakti.

From village spaces to the Peshwai courts, from army barrack lines to the proscenium stages of Mumbai and Pune, from gigantic tents set up in grounds outside villages to the popular Marathi cinemas of the 1950s and 1960s, Tamasha had its heyday.  What survives today is a commercial form of mobile theatre which tours different regions of Maharashtra during the Tamasha season which conventionally begins on Dussehra (in October) and lasts till May. Statistically, although the figures indicate a decline in the form with several registered groups closing down every season, yet it is also true that the younger generation is still attracted to the form and are struggling to keep it alive, finding new ways of making it relevant for audiences today.


About Sanjay Maharishi

Sanjay Maharishi is a director, producer, cinematographer and editor and has been making documentary films since 1991. His exploratory films reflect his wide range of interests from ancient traditions of water engineering to those around education, crafts, art and theatre. His film on the eminent theatre director, Habib Tanvir (My Name is Habib, My Village is Theatre) has been widely screened in India and around the world. For the past few years, he has collaborated with the National School of Drama, New Delhi, to produce a series of films on contemporary directors, theatre processes and traditional urban theatre. He works closely with children and young adults in workshops to produce films in various genres. Sanjay lives and works in Delhi.

About Aniruddha Khutwad

Aniruddha Khutwad is an alumnus of the National School of Drama (NSD). He has directed a number of plays in Marathi and in Hindi for prominent institutions and theatre groups across India. Some of his work includes Mahapoor, Sainya Bhaye Kotwal, Ek Rikami Baju, Jab Shahar Hamara Sota Hai, Adhantar and Kaay Danger Wara Sutlay.  He has recently directed Dr. Gieve Patel’s Mister Behram which has been translated into Marathi by Shanta Gokhale.



 Apart from theatre, he has worked as the Chief Assistant Director for films like Haasil and Valu and for telefilms Najarana, Fursat Mein, Ek Shaam Ki Mulakaat, Anekon Hitler and Musafir. He has also been the casting director for films Gandhi, My Father, Haasil, Valu and Doha.

Currently, he is working as a visiting faculty to the NSD and conducts theatre workshops across various parts of India including Ladakh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Assam, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. He has also worked as a visiting faculty to the Film &Television Institute of India, Pune where he lectures and conducts workshops on acting based on the Stanislavski system.



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