A Night of Maach: Malwa’s Musical Theatre in Pictures

in Image Gallery
Published on: 02 March 2021

Mitali Trivedi

Mitali Trivedi has recently finished her M.Phil in Sociology from University of Delhi, and has been working with Abhigyan Natya Association, a theatre organisation, for over half a decade. Mitali directed her debut film, a short documentary titled 'Please Mind The Gap', produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust.

Maach, the sung folk theatre form of Malwa region, is an integral part of the Malwa culture and has been a popular source of entertainment for the local folks since the early nineteenth century. Primarily performed by men during the festival of Holi, maach was pioneered by Gopalji Guru in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, which is known as its birthplace. Guru composed many maach plays himself, which are still very popular in the region.
Maach is known for its night-long performances complete with music from dholak, harmonium and sarangi. Since dialogues have to be sung in maach, the performers have to be good singers as well. 

The performances are preceded by religious rituals and ceremonies. Maach performers travel from village to village to perform, and their spectators are locals as well as people from nearby villages. The news about an approaching maach performance is announced weeks in advance.

Stage for a maach performance is built a few feet above the around and is open from three sides, where the audience settles. The audience often actively participates during a maach performance by singing and dancing along with the performers. The stories narrated through maach are of told in Malwi, the local language of the Malwa region, and are mainly about characters from local legends, mythology or rulers from the past. Thus, various folk traditions of the Malwa region draw their morals and ethics from the stories narrated in maach. 

This photoessay showcases the essence of a maach performance both before and during its staging.