There is more dance and less acting, more song and less dialogue
in folk drama. The following kinds of folk play deserve mention: The 'Jatra',
the 'Pala', the 'Patua', the 'Daskathia', the 'Mugal Tamasa', the 'Karma', the 'Dandanata
and the 'Chaitighoda Nata'.
The 'Jatra' or opera still attracts thousands of people.
The Jatra is held in the open field. The rectangular stage is set in the centre
of the audience with the orchestra sitting adjacent to the stage. Beginning with items on the 'harmonium',
'clarionet', 'bugle', 'mridanga', 'jhanja', 'dubi tabla', 'dholki' etc. by the experts of the party, the opera
starts with a party of dancing and singing boys appearing in female garbs. The King generally appears in a stereotyped dress and the themes
are often historical or mythological. The male actors dressed up as females look
artificial. The 'Duari' or 'Dagara' ( the messenger of the King) and the
joker are the most interesting characters in the Jatra. In general, the Jatra in
the villages has very little reference to real life and its problems. The Jatra
parties adjoining the cites are trying to reform the Jatra on the model of the
theatre and the cinema. They avoid too many songs in the play and select their
characters from the social novels and use simple prose in the dialogue.
Pala: Pala is a popular cultural institution responsible
for the popularisation of ancient Oriya literature. It consists of five or six
persons. The drummer plays on the 'mridanga'. Others play on the cymbals, dance
and help the chief singer - 'Gayaka', - to sing and explain the meaning to the
audience. Depth of knowledge, sharpness of intelligence, oratory and keen memory
power are put to a severe test when two well-matched groups challenge each other
in a 'pala' competition. The drummer displays the skill of his fingers and
relates humorous stories to please the audience. The dialogue between the singer
and one of the attendants breaks the monotony of long speeches and jugglery of
words in the song. Pala owes its origin to attempts at Hindu-Muslim unity.
Patua: Patuas sing songs, composed by the village poets who
pick up the subject matter from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and the puranas and more
recently from novels.
Some of the songs are simple in thought and language, while others have a deeper
meaning and are shrouded in a jumble of words. 'Patuas' are of four kinds though all of them worship the same
deity under different names. The difference lies in religious rituals and not in
the aims and objects of worship. The 'Ghata patua' dances, sings and performs physical exercises
in different villages. The best of the devotees leads a party of Patuas to walk
on a fire of burning charcoal.
'Daskathia', once a popular performance of Ganjam,
has spread to all other districts of Orissa. 'Dasa' means a devotee. 'Katha'
means two wooden pieces played in tune with the prayer of the devotee. The party consists of two persons. One is the chief singer, the
other is the 'Palia' who helps him in all respects in singing and acting. The
two persons stage a whole drama, act all the parts, change their tone hour after
hour. They introduce humorous stories to break the monotony.
Tamasa: The 'Tamasa' is a form of opera which reminds us
of the 'Mughal' administration prevalent in Orissa and is a symbol of their
culture. The songs are composed in both Persian and Oriya. Dialogue is quite
amusing. The 'Tamasa' is peculiar to the Bhadrak area in the district of
Balasore and is not performed in any other part of Orissa.
The Karma dancers and singers have their
professional party. They deal with puranic events or events in folk tales. Love
songs are sung in the form of questions and answers between parties of young men
This is one of the most ancient forms of folk art. The skilful
movement of the inanimate puppets in the hands of the artistes holds the
audience's attention. Like actors and actresses of flesh and blood, the puppets
look lively. In this play in order to hide the secrets and tricks of the
play, only one curtain is hung up and another one is propped up from the
ground. behind these two curtains the artists perform their manipulations. They
send out the actors and actresses of the play through the dividing line.
The puppets are made of wood and carved and painted by village carpenters. Only four persons are required to stage a puppet play, namely,
Sutradhara, two singers and the drummer. The dialogue of the puppet play is really very interesting. In
the beginning the drummer sits in front of the stage and beats the drum. This is
an invitation to people to witness the performance. When the people have
gathered in large number, the performance begins. The woman recites the dialogue
of the queen or the attendant. She sits behind the screen. But this is not the
case with the male singer who sits outside the stage. He recites for the King,
Minister, Police officer or Messenger. Each of them sings about twenty-five to
thirty songs a night. Two people memorise the entire play.