The Forgotten Tawaifs: Map Their Journey At This Classical Indian Musical

The Forgotten Tawaifs: Map Their Journey At This Classical Indian Musical

Back in the 1800s, India witnessed the rise of a cult following for a very niche troupe of entertainers. The Tawaifs, as they were called, made up for the earliest semblance of artists who held a celebrity status in the country back when the Mughals were still in power.

Names like Gauhar Jaan, Janakibai, Begum Akhtar and more were ones that resonated with audience across towns and cities. These eclectic performances ranged across traditional dance and music forms such as Thumri, Dadra and the evergreen, Ghazal.

The women that proliferated this culture not only immortalised the art form but also etched out a vibrant legacy over which traditional Indian art forms thrive today.

Mumbai-based artist and performer Avanti Patel
Mumbai-based artist and performer Avanti Patel
Image source: Avanti Patel

O Gaanewali

Looking back at the legacy and the journey of these illustrious women artists who shaped the future of India’s classical music and dance forms, a Mumbai-based artist and performer Avanti Patel has devised a futuristic show that plays out as an ode to these stars of yesteryear. O Gaanewali is a 120-minute musical that navigates through the history and cultural significance left behind by the Tawaifs.

Speaking of the show, writer and performer Avanti Patel reveals, “This show is very close to my heart, I think it will always be a ‘work in progress’ because of the vast body of work left behind by the Baijis. As artists, it’s so rewarding to be able to learn and grow with every show we perform. With every new show, I am constantly looking to add and change the compositions and anecdotes we share. It keeps us fresh and on our toes as performers, and gives the audience an opportunity to experience something new if they wish to come again!”

Conceptualised and written by Avanti Patel, the show will feature a talented troupe of Hindustani artists who have in the past performed in Mumbai’s NCPA and Bengaluru’s BIC earlier this year. The show which has had three successful virtual runs is bringing this experience live to Harkat studios and Le Chakkalas in Versova, Mumbai this weekend (11th and 12th of June).

To purchase tickets for the show this weekend, click here.

Follow Avanti Patel’s work here.

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