Gambhira is a satirical folk theatre popular in Malda district of West Bengal. This art form voices the grievances and aspirations, joys and sorrows of the common people. It became popular after the decline of Buddhism in 7th-8th century and was revered in Malda during the rule of the Sen dynasty. The current form of Gambhira emerged during the reign of the Palakingsin the 10th century. In Gambhira, one of the performers dresses up like Lord Shiva and represents the feudal lord or government. In a wonderful mix of songs, dances and satire, it conveys the people’s woes, concerns and worries to Lord Shiva.
A Gambhira Pala (session) generally has five acts. The Palas start with Bandana where four artists come up on stage and start a conversation related to a current issue. On their failure to find a solution, they summon Shiva who gives the judgment and provides a solution to the problem. Then begins the next act — Char Yaari — meaning four friends representing four characters trying to solve the problem through humorous and witty dialogues and songs. One of these four is an Uchit Bokta (one who speaks logically and the right things). The third act, Duet, is performed by two characters on various small issues pertaining to the society. The fourth act includes taunting by the characters. The fifth and final act is a kind of reporting about last year’s major issues and discussions and aims to provide solutions to the problems raised at the beginning. Nowadays, presentations are highly customised. The duration of the shows is 2 hours to 2 and a half hours.
Total 293 artists from Malda are covered under the RCCH II initiative.