Dance Like A Woman

A lithe figure shoves balls of cotton into his bra, before painting pencil-thin streaks for brows on his face, his colour concealed with skin-toned greasepaint. This is a scene from the documentary Naach Launda Naach, to be screened at the Public Service Broadcasting Trust’s festival of documentary films, Open Frame, today. This is also one of the most enduring memories for one of the film’s makers, Jainendra Kumar Dost. “For as long as I can remember, I have watched them get dressed in their make-up rooms and peered as they performed on stage” says Dost, a doctoral scholar at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, who joined forces with his college-mate, Shilpi Gulati, a National Award-winning filmmaker, to document the traditional folk theatre of Bihar.Across the state, and in eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, men, primarily those occupying the lower rungs of the caste hierarchy, don the garb of a woman to perform launda naach. “Even in its documentation, the folk form has been considered achhuta. When I started my research in 2012, I barely found any written material through which I could gain a historical understanding or contextualise the form,”

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