This project investigates the relationship between the production-consumption of the North Indian musical genre of thumri (and other allied forms) through gramophone records and the fashioning of the songs of the female characters in Marathi Sangeet Natak tradition, with special emphasis on the female impersonator actor Bal Gandharva.
Though the tradition of stage music in Maharashtra is long, it is not a single tradition, but shaped periodically by musical genres outside this commercial theatre in the late-19th and early-20th century. The nexus between the musical genres and their adoption in theatre reveal the composite nature of this theatre, which drew from the current musical (as well as other artistic) practices.
The emphasis of this project is on the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century, when the north Indian genres of thumri and other "semi-classical" forms were thought to be suitable for representing the "respectable" woman in through theatre. This adoption reveals an interesting relation between the conventional understanding of the thumri genre with kachcha gaana (which also implies less respectable) and the newly emerging discourse of respectability in Marathi theatre. Further, the presentation of the Marathi songs (natya pada) itself seems to have been influenced by the way in which the baijis presented their music through the medium of gramophone records of the 78 rpm era, inviting attention to the shaping of music in the gramophone record format.
The analysis will take into consideration not only the historical and cultural aspects of this phenomenon, but also the musicological aspects of producing and consuming music through gramophone records. Additionally I also propose to look at the apathetic reception of Bal Gandharva's music when rendered by a "real" woman, Goharbai Karnataki, with reference to the debate on the entry of women into theatre in the 1930s.