Train that sringara rasa

In a first, a lavani residency promises a sophisticated side to the popular folk form, with no loss of the oomph factor

A classical dancer trained in Odissi and Bharatnatyam, Prarthana Patil is re-visiting a life-long interest in lavani. "I want to see if I can use lavani's intense abhinaya in Odissi. For instance, take baithak lavani, which is performed seated. An entire song is accompanied only by eye movements," says the Vile Parle resident. She adds that the titillating item-numberish lavani that features often in mainstream Marathi cinema is not the kind she is looking for. It's not just entertainment, she says.

Shakuntala Nagarkar, is one of the mentors at the two-day lavani residency.
Shakuntala Nagarkar, is one of the mentors at the two-day lavani residency. Pic/Nimesh Dave

In search of sophistication and nuance, Patil is mulling over attending a residency scheduled for April 16 and 17. That weekend, participants will head to TARAPA, an arts and culture space in Tansa, to taste the flamboyant and the subtle, the bombastic and the mellifluous aspects of lavani. In the world of residencies, this is the first time a lavani residency (a term that sounds incongruous to our citified sensibilities) will be conducted by Sangeet Bari, and The Drama School, giving Maharashtra's folk dance a gravitas that hasn't been encountered before.

Geetanjali Kulkarni
Geetanjali Kulkarni

"We are not suggesting that participants will learn everything about lavani in two days. But a residential workshop should help understand the process," says Geetanjali Kulkarni, who runs The Academy of Research and Application in Performing Arts (TARAPA). Kulkarni, a theatre and film actor who gave a memorable performance as a small-minded public prosecutor in Court, thought of hosting this residency after watching lavani artiste Shakuntala Nagarkar's unencumbered performances. "Shakubhai is very different onstage and offstage. She goes from being this ordinarily dressed, mother-like figure to this glittering sexy dancer. Her 'roop' changes," says Kulkarni.

Nagarkar, who belongs to lavani group Sangeet Bari, will be one of the three mentors at the residency. The veteran artiste sizzles on stage and is one of the reasons that theatre actor Archana Patel Nandi has signed up for the residency.

Nandi has acted in English and Gujarati plays such as Whole Sum Parts and Babot, and believes she is at that peculiar position where she cannot be cast either as young-peppy-girl or as mature-older-woman.

"This residency will help me show a sensuous side to my femininity, rather than a teenager's approach to seduction. And for someone like me, who is on the healthier side, lavani is both voluptuous and graceful," she chuckes.

Like Nandi, Mukta Barve has also signed up after being mesmerised by Shakubai's 'jaadu'. The popular Marathi actor is no stranger to lavani, having played a tamasha artiste named Manjula in the 2010-11 television series, Agnihotra. "If you are acting in a play, and someone whistles, you wonder why they did that. Wouldn't clapping be more appropriate? But, when they whistle during a lavani performance, you feel great."

The cross pollination between lavani and the theatre that Nandi practises, some of which is commedia dell'arte, could be a successful one. The dance form's expressions and body movements suit theatre, and Nandi finds it a refreshing departure from some of the other physical movement workshops held around town.

Filmmaker Savitri Medhatul and scriptwriter Bhushan Korgaonkar, who will also mentor at the residency, believe that lavani gives a theatre experience to actors, especially in the way that contemporary theatre interacts with audiences. For Rs 6,000, the residency will take you through not just the sringara rasa (the rasa of erotic love) that lavani is most associated with, but also its various forms (ever heard of of that lavani about a visit to the Konkan coast?), its history and sociology. The residency will end with a participants' choreography.

However, will men sign up? "Men should enjoy this sringara rasa. Isn't it a wonderful way to welcome the vasant ritu?" says Kulkarni, as she teasingly calls her husband, actor Atul Kulkarni, 'the funding agency' for TARAPA. But, Nandi has other motives. "I just wish they cast me in Sangeet Bari," she laughs.

Registrations for the workshop are open. Call 9619336336 for details

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