Folk arts have been identified in three categories on the basis of their form, content and performance situation: Ritual, traditional and functional.
It is learnt from experience that the first category of ritual arts like tribal dances and religious acts, should best be left untouched in relation to a communication strategy on themes of contemporary significance, as they are rigid and reject the new message as a ‘foreign body’.
The traditional ones which draw themes from the much regarded classics and ancient fore do permit their flexible characters like the jester (Vidushak) and narrator manager (Sootradhara) to absorb and reflect new messages despite the rigid story frame.
These arts could be judiciously employed as message carriers to the audience through a face-to-face situation, which makes rural communication meaningful and convincing.
The third category of functional or folk songs, acts and narration has been found to be ideally suited for development communication, with a judicious exploitation of their inherent flexibility to absorb contemporary messages.
Folk arts are also categorized on the basis of their form of communication such as, verbal, verbal-musical, musical and visual folk art.
Folk drama encompasses the entire inner personality of the villager. It seeks to meet all his intellectual, emotional and aesthetic needs. Unlike urban and modern drama, it freely uses songs, dances and instrumental music, besides dialogues.
This multiple approach results in a form that is self contained and complete entertainment for the audience to whom it is directed. It is more than an entertainment, it is a complete emotional experience and aims at creating an environment or receptivity in which verbal communication of ideas is an effortless process.
Some of the most eminent folk dramas in India have been used for social awakening since independence. In the hands of Mukund Das and Utpal Dutt, Bengal’s traditional Jaatra became a powerful tool of social and political education.
‘Tamaasha’ of Maharashtra was raised to the status of national theatre. Habib Tanvir in Madhya Pradesh gave a new dimension to the rural drama as a powerful interpreter of new and provocative ideas.
Other forms such as, Bhavai of Gujarat, Burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, Yakshagana of Karnataka came to the fame as dependable and persuasive change agents in the rural context.
The ballads like Lavni and Pawada of Maharashtra, Garba of Gujarat, Gee-Gee of Karnataka, Kabigaun of West-Bengal and Villupatta of Tamilnadu also came in forefront and played roles in altering the rural mind to the importance of social or political themes like social welfare, national unity, status of women and so on.
The original content of these ballads is replaced by new messages to suit the needs of time and place. This has given them contemporarily and functional relevance.
According to Mathur, an expert on Indian folk drama, “Unlike urban and modern drama, it freely uses songs, dances and instrumental music besides dialogue. This multiple approach results in a form that is self contained and complete entertainment for the audience to whom it is directed”.
Folk drama has grown as an entertainment form. All forms of folk dramas have their origin in different regional cultures and languages. Some of the popular types of folk dramas are discussed here.