Bharud, the folk art of Maharashtra, is quite popular for its humorous narration of the life of the common folk. It is an ancient poetic form that the saints used for social enlightenment. They composed these Bharuds in a way that attracted the attention of people and reached their hearts.
Professor Anil Mager on Maharashtrian TV Show 'Ekdam Kadak'
My fascination with Bharud began during my school days. Once during a school programme, a man dressed in a lady’s clothes came on the stage and started performing. After a few seconds, I realised that the voice of the man seemed familiar. Eventually, it dawned on me that it was none other than Professor Anil Mager, my Marathi teacher!
Suffice to say, I was surprised! Professor performed Bharud for us, and since that day, I was highly intrigued by the art form. It was something that made us laugh and also informed us about societal issues which we did not pay attention to before. But there was so much more to Bharud that many of us were and still not aware of. So, in a brief telephonic chat, I asked Professor Anil to explain what the life of a Bharudkar feels like.
What kind of art form is Bharud?
Bharud is an ancient folk art passed onto us by the saints of Maharashtra. Although Bharud was initiated by Sant Dnyaneshwar, Sant Eknath remains the biggest contributor.
Initially, Maharashtrian saints used to write and perform Abhangas and Kirtans to teach values to the people. After a while, they decided that using the day-to-day life experiences of the common man as subjects and adding a bit of humor will make it a people’s art. Over the years, Bharud has emerged as a strong medium to communicate morals and teach common folk about divinity, society, etc.
Are there any types of Bharud?
Bharud is performed in two ways, namely Bhajani Bharud and Songi Bharud. Bhajani Bharud is where people just sing the compositions of Bharud as Bhajans whereas, in Songi Bharud, we dress up as different characters and perform them. In general, Songi Bharud is more popular among the public as it is more entertaining.
Has Bharud evolved with time?
Yes, of course! Initially, Bharud was only performed to educate the illiterate rural people about society and other things I mentioned before, but now, it has increased in scope. Now, we choose contemporary issues to present like female foeticide, farmer suicides, flaws in the education system, rape, and inflation. We also promote various government schemes through Bharud.
Costumes have also changed. Earlier, men used to wrap a cloth around them and perform as women. Now, we have to wear proper sarees and makeup and make ourselves look like village ladies to look more believable.
The use of musical instruments was also very limited then. Today we use many instruments such as harmonium, tabla, taal, chipli, pakhwaj, mrudung, etc.
What inspired you to become a Bharudkar?
During my childhood, there used to be a fair in my village where people gathered during the night and participated in all types of different, colorful performances such as Kirtans, Bhajans, acts from the Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita reading, etc. Among all these art forms, the one which intrigued me the most was Bharud.
It not only made people laugh but also taught us so many things. I decided then that I have to do this. And as I grew up, I understood that Bharud was a medium through which I can gain a stage and an audience and help in social enlightenment, which our saints started.
What kind of challenges do Bharudkars face?
When we dress up as women, some people in the audience throw nasty comments and criticize us. It’s quite hard to face. Also, like I told you before, we now perform different issues that exist in the present society. The biggest challenge is drafting the compositions. We can’t change the original compositions written by the saints. So, we have to use them in such a way that we are able to address present issues and not the earlier ones. That’s pretty difficult if you ask me!
How do you address these challenges?
As I said, some people in the audience like to joke and give weird looks, but the others, the larger population, are extremely polite and respectful. Anywhere I go, I’m treated with respect because of my work. People heartily appreciate it. And for an artist what is more important than heartfelt praise? Their blessings and appreciation keep me going and make me strong to face all the obstacles.
There isn’t much information about Bharud on the web. People don’t know much about it, What would you like to say about that?
Yes, as we can see, other art forms are quite famous. They’ve gained popularity, and people know about them. Sadly, Bharud hasn’t become that popular among people. It’s sad, but it is what it is. There is a selective audience who watch the performances.
Like you said before, the time has changed. Earlier, people had no other means for entertainment. Now they have mobile phones, the internet, and televisions. People have kind of drifted apart from their culture. Bharud used to be a glorious art form; it has lost its former glory.
There are very few Bharudkars present in Maharashtra now. There are so many career options available today that very few people choose Bharud as their career path. However, exceptions like Bharudratna Niranjan Bhakre are always there.
Can women also participate in Bharud?
Of course! There are very few women Bharudkars presently, but they do participate. Miratai Umap is a famous personality among them. Women generally perform Bhajani Bharud. Songi Bharud is not popularly performed by ladies.
While looking back at all these years of being a Bharudkar, what makes you proud?
I am a lecturer at Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University. There are 30 colleges registered under the University. Whenever there are programmes in any of these colleges, all of them begin with my performance.
Also, I had an opportunity to go on a television show because of Bharud. I was invited to perform on a show called ‘Ekdum Kadak’ on the channel Colors Marathi. Another thing that makes me the proudest is that my son is also stepping on the same path as me. He is taking Bharud lessons from me and I cannot feel prouder.
Bharud is surely a beautiful art form that our ancestors gifted to us as heritage. It is our duty to preserve, and promote the same. To know more about Bharud, click here.
Pratha Content Writing Intern