In the recent years educationists, media experts and development practitioners have realized the tremendous potential of folk art forms as means of communication with people.
Folk media are primarily concerned with appealing to emotions, and include strong dimension of communication of message. They constitute an integral part of the culture and tradition of the people and they have instant mass appeal.
They function within the cultural framework of the society, which appeals to the audience and thus folk media acquire credibility among masses.
Folk media provide for face to face communication. Thus they envisage an audio visual impact as well as maximum audience participation and instant feedback. These media have three major objectives.
1. Aesthetic expression
These objectives are realized during performance with simultaneous audience involvement creating a live and direct dialogue with the audience.
Folk media convey developmental and educational messages through entertainment, color, costume, dance and music remain the heart of the folk theatre. The initial aim of the folk theatre is to give the first impact with sound and sight and then slowly open the audiences’ mental eye for the message on morality.
Thus, on one hand it gives expression to the life style and values of the people in spoken word and song, rhythm and spontaneous choreography, on the other hand it acts as a most persuasive communicator and an effective corrective force.
As folk media constitute an integral part of the culture, the audience is able to identify itself with the experience provided by folk media. They provide the audience with emotional, intellectual and subconscious level of experience through music, melody, fantasy, humour and intelligible information.
Moreover, repetition of ideas by repeating dialogues or lines of songs ensure understanding of the messages. Such repetitions through modern media would require huge budgets.
Due to the informality and simplicity of the folk media, they allow for prompt improvisation by the intelligent and imaginative performers and thus become immediately relevant and responsive to the environment or situation.
Generally they are informal and unscripted and do not fall in the category of, works of high art. They are spontaneous manifestation of the art and due to their informal nature it provides unlimited scope for improvisation in song, speech, dance and gesture.
The flexibility of folk media is mainly responsible for their immense potentiality as message carriers. They are also adaptable to modern mass media. Thus they remain nearer to masses than classical forms.
Folk forms are larger than life and melodramatic. Gestures, movements and speech are more simple and down to earth than the rigidity of classical theatre and the abstractions of modern theatre.
Folk media have simplified realism and suggestively to rural symbols which mass audiences can easily relate, for example, dress, dialects, folk songs, are taken from the existing culture of the region only.
Comments by Sutradhar, Vidushak or Jester provide for comments on the contemporary issues in a satire form, which is most liked by the public because the main plot of the folk drama is well known.
Even today, clumsily enacted Ramlila touches the hearts of many despite the production of religious films and serials.
Folk media are the most appropriate for bringing about changes in attitude or for popularizing new practices in a traditional society.
For example, Bhavai on use of unconventional sources of energy, treatment to lower caste people, importance of exercising vote etc. can convey the messages very effectively. Thus, they could play role in framing, structuring and patterning our national ethos.
Folk media have capacity to change and adapt to socio political situations. The cause for this change is clearly the demand of the audience. It can be seen in many of our folk forms.
For example, the dances in Nautanki are derived from classical Kathak and Gayaki is based on pure ragas. Now days, we find light, ‘filmy’ kind of dance and music replacing these earlier traditions of folk dance and music.
Urban audience also responds to folk theatre favourably if one brings in a few sophistications. For example, messages related to urban environment and population can be conveyed effectively through Bhavai or Nautanki or Street play.
Folk media can play a vital role in communicating to and with the people, particularly, in rural areas, including the modern messages. They can be effective mass media for preventing the tribals and the illiterates from continuous exploitation, as they do not understand, the language of modern communication.
In India folk forms have special significance as mass media. People in remote rural and tribal areas do not have an access to the modern media. Studies have shown that the messages sent through modern media do not reach these target groups.
Here folk forms of communication can help immensely in dissemination of the messages emitted by the electronic media. These groups have low level of media literacy due to lack of experience to modern media, which are not close to their culture and values.
According to Parmar, “Communication is fully realised when it passes through the attitudes and behavioural patterns of the people. It is shaped by cultural heritage and by common ties of existence of the people together”.
Indian cities have migrants from rural areas, residing in pockets and maintaining their folk culture, this characteristic also provides greater scope for folk and modern media blending.
In short, folk media are the tools of communication having special characteristics. They remain alive through oral and functional sources. They can work as the most effective channels for expressing socio-cultural, religious, moral and emotional needs of the people of the society to which they belong.
Kumar (1995) strongly feels that from a countrywide perspective the folk and traditional media are still the only ‘mass’ media, in the sense that they have their roots in the tradition and experience of a large majority of the population, and also that they have a reach much more extensive than any of the modern traditional media.
It can be noted, however, that the numerous religious, caste and linguistic groups across the 22 states of the country have their own distinctive folk and traditional media, though there has been some interaction among them.