Lavani has ruled the stage in many parts of Maharashtra over centuries. It is a form of song and dance that entertains the audience, engages them, and makes them an integral part of the performance.
Traditionally it is performed in Tamasha, an all-inclusive, folk-based form, as well as in Sangeet Bari, an intimate and personalised practice. Gender and sexuality play a pivotal role, with ‘sringar’ (eroticism) as the dominant rasa (flavour) in lavani. Lavani also uses ‘hasya’ (humour) to comment on issues of social relevance, dealing with subjects in a direct and unabashed style. Interestingly, lavani is written by men, for the entertainment of men, yet performed by women.
Tamasha originally had an all-male cast, some of whom would dress up as women to perform lavani. This practice died out as more and more women started to perform. In 2001, Mumbai saw a new trend with the launch of an all-male lavani show titled ‘Bin Baykancha Tamasha’ – tamasha without women. The show attempted to revive the old tradition, while offering artists a means of exploring their own femininity through lavani. Referencing these traditions and performances, ‘Lavani Queens’ has a mix of male and female artists who perform new and old lavani songs. The artists aim to give the audience a fun-filled evening, showcasing a gender-fluid, all-inclusive, modern face of lavani which is not fully explored.