Kala Pathak: Pool of talent is about to dry up | india | Hindustan Times
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Kala Pathak: Pool of talent is about to dry up

A DECADE after the State Government declared post of Kala Pathak artiste a dying cadre, its last group of artistes, who are government employees, are worried whether Pathak would survive with contractual artistes in future and whether it would attract the talent it presently boasts.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 15:10 IST

A DECADE after the State Government declared post of Kala Pathak artiste a dying cadre, its last group of artistes, who are government employees, are worried whether Pathak would survive with contractual artistes in future and whether it would attract the talent it presently boasts.

“The artistes will be kept on contract basis and paid Rs 80 per show at the collector’s rate. A dholak player today earns Rs 100 per hour. Who would want to work for Pathak then? You won’t get the same talent as now,” Indore Kala Pathak chief artiste Ranjit Singh Malviya told Hindustan Times.

He, along with five artistes and presentation assistant Ambaram Garhwal, will retire in 10 years, after which there would be no recruitment. The government will hire artistes as and when required, though at present Pathak holds four street plays a week.

Kala Pathak, which consists of group of stage artistes, was formed in 1954 at the behest of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to propagate government welfare schemes through staging street plays, especially in villages.

At present, every district headquarters, barring the newly formed districts in the State, have Kala Pathak group that have been placed under Panchayat and Social Justice Department.

Before newspapers made their way into villages and small towns, Kala Pathak was the only source of infotainment for them. It would inform them about government’s plans and regale them by belting out popular film songs and doing comedy pieces. In fact, Pathak artistes served as journalists till 1960s, as the newspapers picked up information from them about government policies and village problems.

Although television has penetrated the rural households, its importance is not lost. Pathak team, for instance, was pressed when the government couldn’t gather a crowd of more than five for publicising Right to Information Act in villages. “Pathak began the play and there was crowd of 100 in less than five minutes at nearby Rampuriya village,” Public Relations Assistant director Ajay Verma (now transferred to Bhopal) told Hindustan Times.

Swami Vivekanand Samuh Bima Yojana, Antyoday Mission and prohibition are among other schemes on which Pathak presents plays across the State.

Pathak is a pool of talent. Its members are still carrying on the 50-year-old tradition of delivering dialogues impromptu. The dialogues are neither scripted nor crammed, as the skit is prepared on two-hour notice that leaves no time for rehearsals.

The dialogues are decided during course of interaction among artistes, improvised according to place and time, and delivered. Only songs are scripted. “We study the government schemes, pick up key words and translate them into Malwi, Nimadi or Bhili as the place demands so that villagers get the message,” Ambaram informed.

Besides acting, artistes are equally adept at playing harmonium, dholak and majira. They sing, compose songs on themes as diverse as women’s emancipation, organic farming, water harvesting, prohibition or AIDS and set them to music. They undertake clerical work when there are no shows.

On most occasions, artistes enact female role, as there are no women artistes with Pathak except in Bhopal, Jhabua, Ujjain and Jabalpur district. If there is a pressing need, woman aganwadi worker of the village where the play is to be staged is invited to act.

Village raconteurs or singers, too, are asked to participate if there are any. Indore Kala Pathak group has artistes of repute. Mangilal Jhankar, a good comedian and singer, has written 150 episodes for ISRO’s literacy campaign. Pradip Solanki has received several awards for Bhavai dance.

He is equally good at harmonium and tabla. Coming from well-known family of dholak players, Jagdish plays dholak besides acting. He has played dholak with Mahendra Kapoor orchestra at Nehru Stadium while his brother Girish Vishwah is dholak player with ZEE TV for its popular Antakshari programme.

Shailendra Sharma, who is associated with theatre for last 28 years, has directed plays enacted by mentally challenged children on several occasions. Another Pathak member, Pavan Neem, excels in mono acting. He slurs when he speaks but once on stage he can deliver dialogue non-stop for hours. “This vocal transformation is a thing of wonder,” exclaims his chief Malviya.

Their creativity is not confined to staging street plays. An inter-division extempore skit competition is held annually under Lokotsav programme. The winners receive state-level award and are featured on TV. So even as Kala Pathak fades into oblivion, there is hope for immediate future. It will revive glove puppet shows soon.