I was introduced to this form of art or rather drama at a very early age. No, I was not a protagonist, i was a mere spectator per se, but this peculiar drama form continues to still amaze me. I am talking about the drama form called as Dashavatar. Dashavatar means the ten forms of Lord Vishnu, his re-incarnation in various forms and the acts of defeating what is evil in these forms. Dashavatar is a rustic form of drama performed by locals during festivals, after harvest seasons etc. The beauty of this art form is that it is performed by non commercial actors. These actors may be farmers, goldsmith, cobbler or of any profession, they assemble together and perform the act. Everything is impromptu, no written dialogues no scriptwriters no art directors, nothing, but still the art form has an enthralling power in it to keep you grounded for three four hours in the wee hours of morning.
The another beauty of this art form is that there are no females involved in it, it may be because of the prevalent situation when this folklore evolved, may be because these troopes travel a long and hard journey from villages to villages in odd hours of night. The male protagonists dress themselves like women and enact the role of females. Some of them are so well versed with the role now that their entire body language has changes to that of females.
I got addicted to this form of art as a spectator when i was in third standard, during summer vacations, when we used to be in our native place, these dramas were organised frequently in village temples and in nearby villages. The ideal time for these drama to begin was around 11.30 to 12.00 in the night and end at around 3.00 am. Though the crowd used to assemble about one or two hours before to capture ideal locations. Then various stalls used to crop up near these dramas, adding to festivity, stalls from those vending tea, coldrinks, cigarettes, eatables, toys. Some gambling dens used to organise gamble too. An avoidable negativity around this great art form i guess.
I liked to, and i still like to go behind the scenes and explore the make up rooms of these artists, these were some empty houses provided to these artists, they carry their own metal boxes which contain their dresses apparel and makeup boxes. The timing sense of these people always amazed me. Take for instance, the actors knew exactly when their entry would be. If the drama begins at around 11.30 am, the actor who is playing a bad guy knew exactly when he would have to be on the stage, he would leisurely take his share of nap and would wake up fresh at exactly half an hour before his role and get fresh and begin his make up, just to arrive on the stage on dot.
The plays enacted here in this art form usually are historical plays or from Mahabharat, Ramayan or other epics. If you try not to be a judge or a critic and be a plain spectator, this form of art is a treat to your eyes. Nowadays, this art form has taken some commercial route with some professional form of companies (like Naik Virnodkar, Naik Mochemadkar etc) cropping up, they have their own form of transport, they have their managers etc. One Dashavatari Mandal which went to Delhi and presented their drama to Indira Gandhi got appreciation from Mrs Gandhi in form of a Tempo for their transportation. Good days coming back to these people i guess.
The so called sophisticated persons who stroll in their native place and behave in villages as if they are high ranking people back at their place may view this art form with a touch of negativity, but for a person like me who always loved alternate way of life, this art form is a gift. Even today when i visit my native place, the first thing i do ask my cousins there is are there any plays scheduled in nearby vicinity. The brothers too kindly oblige and arrange my visit to these dramas.
Long live the Dashavataris and their unique art form… Long live the people who help them survive!!!