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Tamasha Legend Balu Passes Away in Miraj hospital

Veteran tamasha artist Ankush Khade, popularly known as 'Balu', passed away on 26th April 2014 in a government hospital at Miraj after a brief illness. He was 83.

Balu with his younger twin brother Lahu Khade formed the famous pair of 'Kalu-Balu', which staged thousands of tamasha performances across the state.

They took the popular folk form of Marathi theatre, which is a perfect blend of Dashavatar, Gondhal, Kirtan, and Vaghya-Murali, to new heights during their career spanning nearly five decades.

Balu was born in a family that had the tradition of tamasha. Their grandfather Satu Khade had started tamasha in 1867, which was later taken forward by their father Sambha Khade.

Balu and Kalu started performing at the age of 14 and quit the stage in late 90's. Later, they had started grooming young artists for plays. Lahu passed away in July 2011 at their native Kavalapur village in Sangli district.

Balu is credited with developing 'Vag', a composition of an event in the poetic form for the musical plays. It is still used by the tamasha artists across the state.

They used the double role technique to their advantage for the stage performances. Their stellar performances in Jahari Pyala, Raktane Rangali Diwali, Raja Harishchandra and Indian Penal Code Section 302 in the 60s and 70s made them stars in the rich tradition of theatrical folk art of Maharashtra.

Vishwanath Shinde, senior researcher of traditional Marathi folk art and a professor at Shivaji University, said that the duo came from a village seeped in the traditional folk theatre form. He had last met the legend during the ceremony in which state government felicitated Balu with Vithabai Narayangaonkar lifetime achievement award.

"Their contribution to the art is such that we are amazed at their capabilities to entertain the large audience. He was the last artist from the era of pure tamasha entertainment. We have lost a great legend today," Shinde said.

The pair was famous for perfect comic timing and used dilemmas about castes, politics and gender inequality to take a dig at social evils through their performances.

They won several awards, including the prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy award in 2001 and Maharashtra State Cultural Award in 1998.

Sudhir Kulkarni, who wrote their biography in 2008, said that the contribution of the twins is unparalleled in the history of Tamasha.

It was their role of Songadya (clown), named Kalu and Balu in the Jahari Pyala act, that left them with the nicknames. The tamasha started in 1950s received wide acclaim throughout the state, he said.

"Their act become so popular that people later started addressing them as Kalu and Balu. I think Jahari Pyala completed over 10,000 performances. However, since there are no formal records available to support the claim, their great performance is often ignored," he said.

Kulkarni added that both the brothers faced financial difficulties despite their great contribution to the folk art of Maharashtra.
Tamasha Legend Balu Passes Away in Miraj hospital Reviewed by Marathi Celebs on April 29, 2014 Rating: 5

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