Sandesh Bhandare

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over two months

Photographer Sandesh Bhandare received an IFA grant in March 2002 to document Maharashtra’s well-known folk theatre form, Tamasha. Sandesh travelled through the districts of Konkan, Marathwada and Vidarbha photographing (over a yearlong cycle) meetings to chart itineraries, the ritual first performances and the subsequent shows of about 50 large and small troupes. He also invested a lot of time in capturing the backstage lives of the Tamasha performers, observing “the sometimes intimate, sometimes envious, but always hierarchical relationships that bind the fellow artists of a troupe”. His documentation also covered the range of performance traditions that go under the name Tamasha, like mujra, lavani, gana and gavlan. Finally, Sandesh was able to document the wide range of settings in which Tamasha is performed.

The 7,000 colour photographs that have emerged from the project can be regarded as a comprehensive ethnographic record – not just of Tamasha but also of the itinerant, nomadic lifestyles of its performers, as well as their large support system in the form of tent builders and tour managers, cooks and transport providers. However, these photographs are also striking expressions of Sandesh’s art. More than just a straightforward documentation of the form, these photographs are shot through with Sandesh’s fascination for Tamasha and his love of its most animated elements. Sandesh’s photographs have been exhibited widely in Maharashtra as well as in Goa and Kolkata. His concern with disseminating his work further, as well as bringing to public notice his own views on Tamasha, led him to return to IFA with an application for a book subsidy. The proposed book in Marathi, titled Tamasha - Ek Rangadi Gamat, will have text written by Sandesh accompanied by approximately 250 photographs. He feels strongly about writing on Tamasha because he believes that misconceptions abound with regard to the form. What most city-based people have in mind when they talk about Tamasha, he says, is what they have seen in the city or what they have seen represented as Tamasha in Hindi and Marathi films. There are many less familiar forms and sub-forms, and the book’s central purpose is to talk about and illustrate these lesser known varieties. The book will also feature accounts of the lifestyles of the performers, the views of Tamasha’s patrons, audience responses and details about the pioneering contribution that certain individual performers have made to the form. The book will close with a personal narrative of Sandesh’s experience of documenting the form.

To ensure the best possible quality, Sandesh will design, edit and print the book himself or with the help of professionals he will hire. The publication and distribution of the book will be undertaken by the Mumbai-based Lok Vangmaya Griha (LVG). The grant will cover all the production costs pertaining to the first print run of a 1,000 copies, which will enable the book to be sold at a subsidised price of Rs 500. While a grant has been made to Sandesh, IFA has signed a contract with LVG in which they will retain 40 per cent of the MRP of each copy sold to cover their distribution and retailing costs, and transfer 45 per cent of the price to IFA. Sandesh has a signed a separate contract with LVG whereby he will receive 15 per cent of the MRP as royalty.\