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Definition of Folk Media

The term folklore, derived from the German

Volkslehre(Peoples customs) has been used
differently in different countries and at
different times.
Anthropologists use the term synonymously
for myths, legends, folktales, folk songs,
proverbs, riddles and variety of forms of
artistic expressions whose medium is the
spoken word.

The term folklore has been derived from
the German Volkslehre (peoples
customs) and has been used differently
in different countries and at different
Anthropologists used the term
synonymously for myths, legends,
folktales, folksongs, proverbs, riddles and
a variety of forms of artistic expressions
whose medium is the spoken word.
The term folklore was coined by william
Thomas in 1846.
Dorson (1976) observed that folklore outlines
the hidden, forgotten and backward culture.
This culture, according to him was hidden in
two ways: a) deep in remote places in a
prehistoric past when the early man
perceived the world animistically or at least
in the pre-Christian era when man indulged
in barbarous rites and b) in far off places
Away from the busy centres of civilization
in the peasant villages of the countryside
and mountain ridges.
Another folklorist Bascom defined folklore
as , Folklearning which comprehends all
knowledge that is transmitted by word of
mouth and all crafts and techniques that
are learned by imitation or examples as

Well as the products of these crafts.
Therefore folklore according to him includes
folk art, folk crafts, folk tools, folk costume,
folk beliefs, folk medicine, folk recipes, folk
music, folk dance, folk games, as well as those
verbal forms of expressions known as folk
Ranganath (1980) described folk media as
living expressions of the life style and culture
of people evolved through the years.
Wang and Dissanayake (1984) defined it as a
communication system embedded in the
culture which existed much before the arrival
of mass media, and which still exists as a vital
mode of communication in many parts of
Classification of Folk lore
A) Oral Literature: This group includes
spoken, sung and voiced forms of
traditional utterance that show repetitive
patterns. Hence folk narrative, folk song,
folk poetry is part of this category as it is
propagated by word of mouth and is
without known authorship.
B) Material Culture: This is a visible part of folk
behavior that existed prior to and continue
alongside mechanised industry. Material
culture is techniques, skills, recipes, formulae
transmitted across the generations and finds a
place in the houses, clothes, food, etc of the
C) Social Folk Custom: In this grouping, group
intearction is important rather than
individual skills and performances. The
customary practicses of these people are
seen during the births, deaths and
marriages. The decoration of the houses are
done to ward off evils. Certain games and
recreations or sports and pastimes are
learned through tradition rather than by
codified rules and regulations.
Performing Folk Arts: They involve the
traditional use of music, dance and
drama by adopting folk instruments,
dance costumes and props for the
purpose of amusement.
1) Traditional folk theatre forms
2) Puppetry
3) Oral literature-cum-musical forms
4) Fairs and festivals including social, ritual
and ceremonial gatherings
5) Traditional youth clubs particularly in tribal
6) Folk Dances
7) Ritual symbols, traditional designs and
The word tradition connotes the act of
handing down and what is handed down from
one generation to another. It is generally
understood as cumulative heritage of a society
including customs, habits and ways of life
which becomes embodied in institutions and
then tend to become frozen because of
Tradition therefore implies age and a long
period of continuity. It is transmitted
through written scriptures or through
word of mouth. The tradition transmitted
through word of mouth is termed as oral
Types of Folk Theatre
Religious Folk Theatre
Commercial Folk Theatre
Narrative Ballads
Religious Folk Theatre
The re-enactment of epic religious myths in the
yearly cycle or religio-civic festivals may be
seen as an insertion of Indias historical and
cultural identity. It usually involves non-
professional actors drawn from the local
population and is performed in the natural
environment of the village square, temple
courtyards, gardens, palatial buildings. One
example is the Raslila, an epic religious
Pagent performed over several evenings in
October throughout much of north India. It
dramatizes the story of Ram from his birth and
childhood adventures to struggle with evil
powers and eventually victory over the demon
king, Ravana, Similarly Raslila recaptures the
childhood pranks of Krishna.
Commercial Folk Theatre
There are a number of operatic folk theatres
performed by city based troupes of ten to
twenty actors, musicians and singers. They are
hired by villagers for major festivals of the
year. Although the themes have a religio-
mythic or romantic historical base, they have a
flexible form that has increasingly become
secular entertainment and sometimes
includes socio-political commentary. Yatra,
nautanki and bhavai are of this kind.
Narrative Ballads
The most widespread forms of folk theatre are
the long narrative songs performed more
often by local villagers who have handed
down the stories and musical skills for
generations. In these forms there is one
principal performer assisted by singers and
musicians. The burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh
or the Veedhinatakam of Tamil Nadu are
Their appeal is personal and at intimate level.
Their primary appeal is to the emotions rather
than the intellect
Cross cultural hurdles are not encountered here
Rapport is immediate and direct
Available to all and sundry and enjoyed by
persons of different age groups and at a very low

Its impact is much deeper and easily available
to the customers.
Very useful for community development
They belong to community and not to
No threat of cultural colonialism or foreign
Local message and localized talent have more
credibility than the centralized ones
These media are comparatively cheap
Acceptability, cultural relevance
entertainment value, localized language,
legitimacy, flexibility, message repetition
ability, instant 'two-way communication etc.
are among their virtues.

The Content of Folk Theatre
The first thing that strikes anyone about the
content of folk theatre is clear demarcation
between the religious and the secular with an
undercurrent of the romantic. However the
two do not continue in isolation, whenever
possible, they have been synthesized into one
H K Ranganath made the following categorical
1)Ritual Forms: These are inappropriate for the
development of communication because of
their insistence on religious decorum and
inbuilt resistance to the insertion of foreign
contents. Examples of this form are all
religious arts e.g. yellama songs and tribal
2)Semi- flexible forms: These are traditional
forms on mythological or historical theme
whose overall structure is rigid, but permit
didactic contents to be communicated
through the jester or narrator during the
interludes between episodes. For instance in
Yakshagana, the jester enjoys the freedom to
pass comments on issues of contemporary
relevance and the stage manager intervenes
to carry on a dialogue with the audience.
3)Flexible Forms: These can be fully
modernized and a thoroughly new storyline
followed. Termed transitional these include
story telling forms like harikatha, kavigan,
ballad singing and puppetry
Basic Themes
1) Religious Themes: The two hindu epics the
Ramayana and the Mahabharata are crowded
with gods and heroines. What inspires one are
the stories of courage, idealism, salvation,
sincerity etc. as typified through characters
both good and evil. Characters like Ram,
Krishna, Sita, Arjun, Ravana and others appear
in folk theatre in gorgeous costumes to inspire
the millions.
Stories with moral instruction, that show the
triumph of the spirit of devotion and fall of
pride and pomp are favourites in religious folk
Mythological themes were also treated in a
lighter vein in the folk plays. Besides the Hindu
epics the many Jatakas and Purans of Buddhist
and Jain origins are also a reservior of stories
The Romantic Element
Romantic tales were used by sundry schools of
mystics for spreading their ideas. This was
particularly suitable at a time when the
muslim rulers shunned any reference to
figures from hindy mythology. Secular heroes
and heroines were fascinated as spokesmen of
morality and mysticism. The Kathasaritsagar is
for instance a short collection of stories from
nature. Nautanki became very popular during
this period.
Social themes
The 18
century brought along with it rapid
social and political changes. Folk theatre
joined forces with the changing times by
including numerous socio-political themes. It
is in this period that the more secular forms
like nautanki, khyals, bhavai and chhau
flourished. These were replete with the social
situations of the time but, as times changed
there contents became irrelevant and were
The formal Characteristics of Folk
Community-based, spontaneous and vibrant:
Folk performance is normally part of a
community celebration. Everyone in the
community, from a child in arms to the great
grandfather takes part in these night-long
performances. They have items in them that
appeal to everyone in the audience: poor and
rich, literate and illiterate, rural and urban,
young and old, men and women.
Most of the folk performances are held in
village squares around which the community
lives. Therefore performances can take on an
informal and festive note. Everyone
participates spontaneously. Sometimes
enthusiastic spectators shout slogans in praise
of Ram and the rest of the crowd joins in.
Natya (words and gestures), nritya (mime or
meaningful gestures) and nritta (dance and
meaningful and beautiful movements) are the
three cognates of drama. Mime was accepted
as one of the most powerful tools of folk
expression, as it cuts across language barriers
and has a tremendous capacity to hold the
attention of the audience.
Often the play is presented through stylized
gestures and symbolism. For example tall
mountains and trees may be suggested by
out-stretched hands and hands lifted over the
heads, a sea or a lake may be shown out in
open gesture. Actors swim, ride an elephant,
or fly across space through mimetic actions.
Darkness was conveyed not by blotting out
stage lights but by groping with the hands in
bright light.
Scenography: theatres, stages, sets,
Performances are normally held in open air in
large fields, temple courtyards or village
quadrangles. On the large fields the plays are
staged sometimes on a raised podium, but
mostly at ground level resulting in a great deal
of intimacy between the actors and the
audience.The use of sophisticated curtains,
lighting techniques and microphones os
unheard of in this form of theatre.
Decorations and properties are also non
existent in most of the folk theatre forms. No
properties are used. A bench, a chair or a stool
can be suggestively placed to indicate a
throne, a bed or something similar.
Acting style, Dialogue delivery
Acting in general is loud and exaggerated,
aimed more at clarity rather than naturalness.
The folk actors make tremendous use of the
human body with wild gestures, elaborate
facial expressions and other suggestive
gyrations. Normally, they stand for the most
part. They force their bodies, gestures and
speeches in the direction of the audience.
The dialogues are hardly naturalistic. They are
improvised, but well rehearsed poetical
recitations. Plenty of local imageries makes
the dialogues rich, but what is more appealing
to the audience is the poetical rhythmic way
of reciting.
Costumes, Makeup, masks
The choice of colours and costumes is
determined according to the quality and
nature of the particular type of character.
Heroic sentiment is represented by orange,
marvelous by yellow, the terrible by black, the
odious by blue, the erotic by light green, the
comic by white, the pathetic by ash and fierce
by red.
Costumes is of vast variety , highly stylized as
in yakshagana or raslila.The costumes are
designed to suit the gods, demons and heroes.
In a number of forms a ready-made masks are
worn by the characters. This makes the
character standout and be readily noticed.
These masks produce a startling effect of
terror and ugliness.

Music, Musical Instruments, Singing
High pitched singing is Characteristic feature of
folk theatre. The words of the songs are
clearly pronounced and the meaning vividly
visualized. There are classical as well as folk
tunes, devotional and folk songs.There are
different ragas to express the emotions of
anger, heroism, pity, horror and fear.
Dance and Rhythmic Movements
Dance is an integral part of any Indian ritual.
Farmers, fishermen, and hunters dance to
express their happiness. In some forms like
the raslila, the whole performance is in dance.
Based on Krishnas love play with the milk
maids of Vrindavan.Mor stringent forms like
kathakali and chhau depend on classical dance
steps to narrate a story.
Stage Preliminaries
No folk theatre begins without a preparatory
session. This helps to bring the audience
together, calm them down and prepare them
for the programme. Stage preliminaries are
essential features of every play. The plays
open with a prayer and a reverential address
to the audience. Long to short stage
It is believed that prayer at the beginning of
any performance alerts the audience about
the presence of gods at the performance and
so enhances their rapt participation. But in
folk theatre in the villages, it acts in effect as a
starter to prepare the audience to receive the
message of the play.
Sutradhar and Vidhushak
The sutradhar (Stage manager) and the
vidhushak (jester) appear in almost all the folk
theatre forms under various names. The
suthradhar is bhagvathalu in bhagvathmela,
vyasa in Ramlila, sami in gosai, adhikari in
Yatra, Ranga in Nautanki. In short he is the
playwright, director and producer combined
and is present at every performance as co-
ordinator, narrator, singer, actor and controller
of almost everything.
He is supposed to be the perfect master of
every thing especially music, dance and mime.
The vidhushak is the bufoon and another
important traditional character emerging from
Sanskrit plays. Like sutradhar he too is known
by various names. He continues to be
vidhushak in koodiyattam, vivek in yatra,
munshi in nautanki, maskhara in bandpather.
The jester or clown may appear either as a
stock character with the same name
irrespective of the story or he may be one of
the dramatis personae of a particular story. He
makes fun of the local leaders in power, he
comments on the current problems, exposes
social evils and injustices and extemporizes on
the topics that concern the villagers.
He does all sorts of irrelevant acts and provides
comic relief to the spectators. His funny
movement and his bantering dialogues with
sutradhar have become a convention of the rural
drama. As a result the audience eagerly awaits
such diversion.
Writes Balwant Gargi he has the freedom to
connect the past with the present and relate the
drama to contemporary scene. He also acts as a
liaison between the audience and players. He
creates snippets of humor relevant to the
need of the hour. Thus, by his talent he
develops during the performance a sense of
fellow-feeling amongst actors and the
A vidhushak is dear to the audience not only
because he evokes laughter and relieves them
of the tensions of day to day life which is full
of difficulties and hard work, but they feel he
is one among them, going through the same
experiences of life. He establishes rapport
with the audience crossing all psychological
barriers between him and them. He has
always shown concern about their problems
and never spared the persons in authority
responsible for the same. A vidhushak can
easily mimic a women, a king, a thief, a
wrestler as he narrates the exploits in
between the main story. He appears at any
moment as an all-knowing character, breaking
the serious mood when appropriate with his
funny remarks.