Balwant Gargi searching for his material on Indian folk theatre traveled widely to villages, shrines, and country fairs all over India, interviewed over 400 actors and dancers, took over 5000 photographs. Of these, 62 were selected to illustrate this most unusual book, along with 54 lively line drawings by the noted Indian artist Shivax Chavada.
A practical man of the theatre as well as scholar, Gargi describes details of staging, costumes, makeup, rituals , pageantry and performance so vividly that the dancers leap from the pages. He captures folk actors, dancer-singers, in their charged moments.
His descriptions of the semi religious cycle of place based on the Ramayana, the erotic singing of Tamasha women, the highly stylized ‘Chhau’ mask drama, the bewitching heroines portrayed by Jathra male actresses, and the heros, Gods, demons of the spirited Yakshagana dance opera are an eye-witness account of these immensely varied art.
Today, when the folk element has injected vitality into all the arts, the folk theatre offers a fresh approach and new techniques of special value to contemporary actors, directors and playwriters.
“Nowhere else”, writes Faubion Bowers, “is so compact a survey of folk drama forms available… passages of Gargi’s writings are brilliant, graceful, and most evocative”.
Balwant Gargi – playwrighter and director, novelist, was born in a sandy village in Punjab in 1916. He has written 35 short plays, 10 major dramas and autobiographical novel, “The Naked Triangle”, and he is maker of many short films. He is the recipient of ‘Sahitya Akademy Award’, 1962, ‘Wattumull Special Achievement award’, 1967, and ‘Padmashree’ , 1972. His plays have been staged in Soviet Union, Poland, UK, Germany, US and in major cities of India. His ‘Sohini Mahiwal’ ran in the Gypsy Theatre , Moscow, for three years. Among his famous plays are ‘Loha Kut’ (The Balcksmith), ‘Kanak di Balli’ (The Mango Tree), ‘Sultan Raziya’ & ‘Saukan'(Two women in the courtyard).
Gargi studied the working of the Moscow art theatre, attended Bertolt Brecht’s rehearsal in Berlin (1955) and has first hand knowledge of the theatre masters of the East and the West. He lectured on Indian drama in Europe and US and has participated in national and international theatre festivals and seminars. He was living in Chandigarh