Monday, April 27, 2009


Aalkaap a regional folk performance(theatere), popular in the districts of Murshidabad, Birbhum and Maldaha. It is a composite performance comprising acting, dancing, singing, recitation. An Aalkaap group consists of ten to twelve artistes, led by a sarkar (master) or guru. The group also includes two or three young men called chhokras and one or two gayens or singers. The rest comprise dohar, choristers, and musicians. Aalkaap performances take place at night on an open stage, which is lit by hanging lanterns, popularly known as hyajak bati. The audience stand or sit around the stage, leaving a narrow passage for the performers.
There are two main parts of an Aalkaap performance: songs and witty dialogue in prose or verse. Usually, the themes of the songs are drawn from mythological tales, particularly the story of Radha and Krishna, while the subjects of the dialogue relate to contemporary social events. Sometimes the audience also joins in. The main attraction of Aalkaap performances, however, are the chhokras who dance, dressed as girls, between the singing and acting. Handsome boys are trained to become chhokras and become quite expert in performing the salacious dances known as khemta and jhumur. There are also clowns to make the audience laugh.
The singers sit on the stage while the musicians sit below the stage, on one side. The instruments that accompany the Aalkaap performance are the drum, harmonium, tabla, tambourine, flute etc. The musicians sit throughout the performance. The sarkar enters first, singing a vandana or hymn. He then recites verses that introduce the main theme of the drama. Then he and the main singers start the Aalkaap , while the choristers help them by repeating the burden of the song.
Aalkaap is closer to a play. In the Aalkaap , however, the performers have a notion of the storyline and, mostly impromptu. Though the western educated scholars do not like peoples’ language, they brand it as vulgur, sexually motivated. But these scholars are uprooted from their community. They do not know how the rural communities communicate each other.
At present, when television and films have reached the remotest villages, the social realities are changing rapidly, the production process of agriculture are in the verge of the corporates, the popularity of the Aalkaap has decreased and it is on its way to extinction.
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