Maharashtra has a rich tradition of folk music but many popular forms of folk music entertainment such as Bharuds, Gondhals, Lavanis, Povadas, Bhaleris, Palanes, Artya, etc., are slowly on their way to extinction. Actor, producer, director, filmmaker and music composer Santosh Sawant, aka PAWA (Flute in Marathi), has urged the new BJP Government to save folk singers in Maharashtra who are struggling for survival. Incidentally, during the recent State Elections, BJP employed 200 folk singers to campaign for it and Santosh Sawant (PAWA) wants the BJP to continue its association with folk singers through scholarships, donations and other forms of support.
Hailing from Ratnagiri, Santosh Sawant (PAWA), who is an engineer by qualification, gained name and fame for being the foremost exponent of Jhamela - a folk song that throws light on the complexities and tragedies of life. He says, “Maharashtra's zestful folk music has dynamic power of holding the audience spellbound. Folk songs have often formed an important part of Indian movies and some of them are memorable to the day. They are melodious, tug at your heart and often end up having repeat value. While folks songs from different regions have gained mass popularity, it is the original folk singer who somewhere down the line faded into oblivion. Rarely has Bollywood rallied around any folk artiste to give them mass coverage and publicity. I think Bollywood should stop neglecting folk singers."
At present, folk music can be seen in the approximately 50 Kala Kendras across Maharashtra, most of them in the Marathwada region. There are around 130 travelling Tamasha troupes that perform seasonally and approximately 15 full-time troupes that perform all through the year. All of them are fighting for survival. The modern viewer has a warped and skewed notion of folk music as most of it is fed by what various regional and national movie industries are churning out. For example, for the viewer Lavani is just another item number adding masala to a movie. To add injury to insult is the fact that these dances are performed by mainstream actresses, as no one wants to cast the women who have lived and breathed this dance for centuries.
Publicity or not, folk has managed to remain alive mainly due to the sincere efforts of the singers who have stayed true and honest to their art form. And one such singer happens to be Santosh Sawant aka PAWA, who faced many a struggle while aspiring to be accepted in mainstream Bollywood. Not the one to be bogged down, Santosh cut an album with the help of T-series in 2010 called Voice of Heart. And now the singer is ready to launch his debut Hindi feature film project titled 'Jhamela' which will showcase the life of a folk singer. "The movie has been inspired from a part of my life, my struggles as a folk singer, the art form jhamela and other things. I hope to make folk music more popular through this music. And I shall first show it at 45 plus renowned international film festivals before showcasing it in India," reveals Santosh.
Starting out with his own band, Santosh who is also the lead vocalist soon took Jhamela abroad and staged plays all over India and abroad. Says Santosh, "We use the traditional instruments like Harmonium and Dholki while staging our folk song and play. People love the simplicity associated with our songs which we use to denote the great complexities that human life deals with regularly." While folk singing took Santosh far and wide, he soon discovered his passion for acting on one of his trips to London. Reveals Santosh, "The human mind seeks new challenges to evolve and mine demanded acting. I enrolled myself Hampstead acting academy to learn the finer nuances of acting." With a degree of acting under his belt, Santosh returned back to India with renewed vigour. He tried his hand at Bollywood but unfortunately producers were not quite open to giving folk singers a chance. "Let's see is what everyone used to say whenever I approached them," says Santosh. Irked by Bollywood's shoddy treatment, folk singer to show his debut film abroad and not give Bollywood a chance to get his film first.
Jhamela is groundbreaking concept in the world of modern entertainment. It takes you to a musical journey which is breathtakingly refreshing.Its freshness originates from the heavy dashes of folk music which is the highlight of the movie. It’s a heart touching story of a simple and innocent rural youngster who is a talented folk artist trying to make it big in the modern urban world. It’s a sincere heartfelt attempt to bring fore the forgotten world of folk music to this modern world. Santosh’s previous experience of a successful folk fusion album ‘Voice Of Heart’ came handy while producing this movie.The story has autobiographical shades of Santosh’s own childhood experiences and that gives the movie the realistic touch. Born in a small cozy hamlet called Kolisare near Ratnagiri, Santosh lived life of total disconnection from the modern , ruthlessly competitive world all through his childhood and adolescence.
Kolisare is blessed with the bountiful of natures beauty.Its surrounded by lush green hills on one side and pristine near virgin beaches on the other side.No wonder the people living in these beautiful lazy hills are blessed with naturally creative talent.Disconnected from the modern world, folk music, folk dances and folk plays displayed during local JALSA, were the only modes of entertainment before the advent of satellite cable era. Jalsa is a kind of local fairs prevalent in the Konkan region where these naturally gifted artists display their inborn talents of dance,music and acting.No wonder an extremely gifted person like Santosh got connected to the love of his life which is music through this Jalsa.The people of Kolisare still fondly rememeber by hisvillage pet name PAWA during this Jalsa.We will find the shades of this early life experienced by Santosh in the movie Jhamela.
Santosh moved to Mumbai for further studies and eventually made it big in the machinery exports business. It is an almost rags to riches story.However he still hasn’t forgotten the Kolisare way of Life, nor has he forgotten the extreme hardships experienced during his poverty ridden childhood. No wonder , folk music has a special place in his heart and precisely this that he has highlighted in this movieJhamela.It’s a musical journey of folk artist through hardships and pain. Its also shows how the artist eventually accepts his fate and finds his bearing in life and love. The movie Jhamela also explores the nuances of delicate relationships existing in village folks against the starkconstrast of dry relationships in urban world.The highlight of the movie is its music with heavy doses of folk music flavours.
However, Santosh has done and extremely commendable job in keeping the storyline and the script equally riveting for the audience. His technical movie making skills have been polished by Mr Patrick Tucker and Eliot Grove at London. The concept and orginal idea has been fine tuned to perfection by Shashi Salunkhe.