The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Men storm female dance bastion
- All-male tamasha in Mumbai

Tamasha. The name brings to mind visions of buxom women clad in colourful saris wrapped around their legs, dhoti style, and dancing to songs laden with sexual innuendo.

But now a man is poised to change all that. Anil Vasudev has not only stormed into an exclusive female bastion but is also reaping accolades for his courage in doing so.

What Vasudev has done is akin to organising the first ever women’s rugby team or getting women to don Formula One racing gear.

Vasudev, the lead star in the first all-male tamasha troupe in the 200-year history of the raunchy dance form, says: “What women do, men can do better.’’

But what happens to the salivating hordes of men who have, since tamasha’s inception in the early 1800s, come to see not just the dance, but also the hint of cleavage'

“That is a problem… but slowly people are veering round to the view that lavani (another name for tamasha) can be all art, all dance and all men,” he says.

A receptionist at a Mafatlal outlet in Lower Parel during his non-dancing hours, Vasudev believes in the “modern market’’, with its logic of good products creating a space for themselves.

“Initially, the mostly male audiences were surprised to see men perform the tamasha. There used to be some hooting also, but by the time the show ended, people would be loving it and asking for more,’’ Vasudev says.

“After all, audiences will take some time to get used to this bin baichha tamasha (tamasha without women),’’ he smiles.

Vasudev says his troupe’s shows in Mumbai, Thane and Nashik have been well received.

A Bharatnatyam expert and teacher, Vasudev has not just stormed an exclusive bastion, but has also added some zing to a withering art form.

Tamasha, which grew into prominence during Peshwa rule, was for years looked down upon as a vulgar art form.

Most women performers were seen as prostitutes in a dancer’s garb, much like mujra artistes and cabaret performers. The Bin Baichha Tamasha was aware of this and the risk of proving a damp squib.

“We knew that men might not like what we are doing and women might take offence,’’ says Pramod Khandilkar, a troupe member. “But we decided to take a chance with our purified version of Tamasha,’’ he adds.

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