Skip to main content

Centre for South Asian Studies: Events


The Tamasha Film

The Tamasha Film: Gender, Performance and Melodramatic Form.
Speaker: Aarti Wani # Symbiosis College, Pune, India
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
7th May 2015 16:00 - 7th May 2015 17:30
Seminar Room 3, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square


Emerging in the late forties, the tamasha genre is unique and specific to the world of Marathi cinema. Drawing on folk performative traditions of the lavani and tamasha centered on a sexualized female performance for an all male audience, the tamasha film became the locus for addressing the region. This format allowed Marathi cinema to access and invent a rural cultural milieu. With a focus on the staged spectacle of song and dance, the transgressive space of the tamasha in the village was the nodal point for articulating anxieties regarding caste and gender hierarchies, traditions of power and individual agency. The melodramatic aesthetic of this cinema not only invested in the performative bodies of female characters and performers but also mobilized narratives involving generational conflict, illegitimacy, family secrets, sibling and/or professional rivalry and so on. Even as the form became formulaic, at its best the melodrama spliced the social onto the personal via a gendered performative space. At the same time, the new technology of cinema fractured the ‘traditional’ masculine gaze on the tamasha and dispersed it across the screen for a collective viewing public. In order to unravel the contribution of this ignored genre to Marathi film culture, this presentation will trace its emergence and consolidation, and closely read a selection of its significant texts by theoretically engaging with their melodramatic form.