'Swang' is the rural folk drama, which expresses the interplay of love,
depicting mythological and modern tales of valour, sacrifice, humour and
whatever else comes to mind. The word ''Swang'' stands for disguise or
imitation. Better known as ''sang'' in Haryana, theatre forms an integral
part of the state's culture. The word 'sang' is the corrupted form of
'Swang'. With a deep-rooted tradition, the 'sang' is based on the open
theatre style as it performed in the open.
A mutual dialogue between two characters or groups of characters; costumes and music are the main elements of the performance, accompanied by a number of folk instruments like Dholak, Nagara, Tasha, Been, Cymbals etc. Usually performed by villagers, 'sang' is replete with a touch of folklore, music and narration.
'Sang' is also performed at night, and traditionally men dressed as women often played the female characters. In recent times women have replaced the men, and they have their own plays in which women play men.
The Genesis of the Art
Folk theatre in Haryana found a solid base sometime during the 16th century and is very popular today. An offshoot of the 'sang' is the 'Nautanki' which is very much similar. Ali Baksh of Rewari is said to be the father of folk theatre in Haryana and has staged the mythological-cum-historical saga, 'Padmavati'. Pandit Deep Chand, known as the Shakespeare or Kalidasa of Haryana, modified and polished Ali Baksh style of folk theatre. Other luminaries of the 'sang' were Swami Har Dev, Qutabi, Dhoom, Pandit Bhartu, Pandit Lakshmi Chand and a host of others during the British rule and later.
'Swang' dwells upon themes based on popular tales such as 'Harishchandra', 'Nal-Damyanti' or heroic episodes of 'Heer-Ranjha', 'Leelo-Chaman' etc; or on matters of social satire. Dialogues are crisp and the singing is done at a high pitch. 'Ramleela' and 'Rasleela' the popular dramas, both being based on mythology and religion.
The Open-Air Theatre
The 'Sang' is not at all a complicated affair, the stage being simply a raised platform open from all sides. Any open space can serve this purpose, be it a field, a courtyard or a verandah of a temple. The participants squat on the platform, getting up and taking their turns at acting. Forgetting lines is not a problem as the prompters do their bit without the fear of being heard by the audience. Since nothing is hidden from anyone, green rooms and curtains do not exist.
Revival Of A Fading Art
The middle of the 20th century brought in television and radios right into the homes of the people ` and the 'Sang' slowly faded away. It is performed on rare occasions; being confined now mainly to the rural areas. The Cultural Festival organised by the Government of India aims at reviving this disintegrating culture by promoting artists and their music through festivals and related programmes.