Pavan Prabhakar Dhaware on his journey as a background dancer, his directorial debut, Thali-Wadya.

Ruchika Goswamy
Pavan Prabhakar Dhaware, background dancer, Pune-based cinematographer, FTII, Film and Television Institute of India, Leila, indian express news

Pavan Prabhakar Dhaware

While completing his graduation in Physics from Garware College, Pune, and working as a background dancer in regional films, Pune-based cinematographer Pavan Prabhakar Dhaware was introduced to the camera for the first time. After graduation, he decided to pursue his new found interest at the Department Of Media and Communication Studies at Savitribai Phule Pune University and then joined Film and Television Institute of India for a course in cinematography under the guidance of former dean of FTII, Samar Nakhate. Dhaware, 32, assisted in the 2015 Marathi film Killa, 2019 Netflix series Leila and made his directorial debut with his tribal short film Thali-Wadya at the recent 8th Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) under the Tribal Film competition.

Dhaware’s film is a document of tribal musical instruments. “I am a tabla player and have a keen interest in music. After reading about the tribal competition at PIFF, I decided to research on the musical instruments in the state. I went to the Tribal Research and Training Institute and read more about the tribal musical instruments that are found in the length and breadth of the state. I was attracted to the Thali-Wadya, which is played by the tribal people at all occasions of their lives. The composition of music conveys the story of life events, such as the birth of a child, the first harvest and the death of a person. This aspect interested me the most,” he says.

Pavan Prabhakar Dhaware, background dancer, Pune-based cinematographer, FTII, Film and Television Institute of India, Leila, indian express news

A still from Thali-Wadya

With the help of his friends, Dhaware travelled to the last village located at the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Mohgaon. “My research on the instrument enhanced after reaching the village of the Kokna tribe. I met Bandu Lahanu Chaudhary and Rajaram Umda Pawar who play the Thali-Wadya (plate instrument) in the small village. Today, there are only three individuals who play the instrument in the area,” he said.

According to the villagers, the story of the Thali-Wadya goes back to the time of Lord Shiva and Parvati. “There is a popular story about the time Lord Ganesha went around his parents three times to indicate that they were his entire world, while Lord Kartikey went to take three rounds around the earth. During his trip, Kartikey met a tribal woman, who told him a lie. When Kartikey finds out about the lie, he decides to punish the entire tribe. In order to appease Dongri Devta, Kartikey’s incarnation, Lord Shiva invented the Thali-Wadya, which is an integral part of the tribe even today,” said Dhaware.

The film shows how the instrument, played by both men and women of the tribe, comprises three components — a brass plate, a thin stick or kaathi of the Bhangsar plant, and bees wax. The Bhangsar plant, which is found in the area, is dried and polished according to requirement. It is set perpendicular to the brass plate with the help of the bees wax as adhesive. Based on the principles of sound, rhythmic movements on the kaathi, the metal plate produces vibrations. “The stick and the plate are chosen carefully. One cannot just pick any stick or plate. Additionally, the rubbing or movement on the stick is a skill that is passed on from generation to generation,” says the filmmaker.

The musicians said the new generation is not interested in learning the art and the the Thali-Wadya might soon be relegated to history. Migration to bigger cities in the hopes of employment and money has driven the instrument to the brink of extinction. “These instruments need to come out as they are unique and should be preserved. The players are in their 70s and say that the young should learn the skill as well as concentrate on their education. This is like a legacy,” he said.

Dhaware said that steps are being taken by the head of the tribe to help the instrument sustain. “I believe that people in the music industry should incorporate the instrument in compositions. It will commercialise it, but that way Thali-Wadya would at least exist,” he says.