Monday, 9 November 2015

Trippingg on Culture Smorgasbord of Delhi – Part II

October 2015

The cultural scene is just revving up as October gets more pleasant with each passing day. Newspapers carry announcements for more events. Trying to catch up with everything along with Diwali shopping is almost impossible. You try to do your best even as you prepare yourself for November when the culture scene gallops into the final lap as Diwali approaches.

Delhi has two main cultural centres. First is the Mandi House area that is chock-a-block with iconic places like Triveni Kala Sangam, Rabindra Bhawan, National School of Drama in the Bahawalpur House, Shriram Centre for Art and Culture, Sangeet Bharati, LTG Theatre, Kamani Auditorium, Shriram Bhartiya Kala Kendra. Mandi House is of course the hub of culture where you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere – theatre, performing arts, art exhibitions, films, Chinese food vans providing nourishment to ‘theatre kind’ artsy people. And then there is the Bengali Market serving Delhi’s street food at Bengali Sweet House and Nathu’s.

The second hub is the Lodhi Road and Lodhi Estate area. Lodhi Road is where the multi-crore residences on Amrita Shergill Marg coexist in leafy delight with government housing, and is the place where people of power go power jogging in Lodhi Gardens. Indian Habitat Centre together with India International Centre and India Islamic Cultural Centre is confluence of culture in this part of the city on the edge of Lutyens’ Delhi.

And this is when you have not even started on the international events held in the cultural centres of Britain (British Council Division), USA (American Centre), Germany (Max Mueller Bhawan) Italy (Italian Cultural Centre), Japan (Japan Cultural Centre) France (Alliance Francaise) and many more dotting the city.

Delhi International Arts Festival at Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi, 16th to 31st October 2015

DIAF continues to delight and this evening you find yourself in Kamani Auditorium treating yourself to Jazz & Blues, some Mexican Salsa and a trio of musicians playing piano, violin and cello.

A lively performance of Jazz & Blues by New York's Maya Azucena

Maya Azucena was invited by US Embassy for this gig and is known for her support to Human Rights

Cuatro Amigos of Nacho Sin Salsa group from Mexico

The Senorita tap dancing to Spanish music transports us to Spain of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara

Dos Hombres seem to have walked out of a Robert Rodrigues movie - waiting for Salma Hayek to emerge

Members of Collapse - from Cyprus & France

You are watching a live performance playing Piano, Violin and Cello and yes playing these instruments is a huge deal - great performances

Durga Immersion at Yamuna Ghat, Kalindi Kunj, New Delhi

Durga Maa with her children Ganesh Kartikeya leaves the mortal world for her home. Devotees throng to bid farewell to the Goddess.

Durga Maa immersion in Yamuna at Kalindi Kunj, Delhi

Festival of Performing Arts (Music, Dance and Drama) at Meghdoot Theatre Complex, Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi, 24th to 31st October 2015

A friend introduces you to Rabindra Bhawan, another gem in the Mandi House area. Rabindra Bhawan houses the Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Sangam and Sangeet Natak Akademi. The place has art galleries, library, book shops, and museums. The museums of masks and musical instruments are delightful and deserve a visit.

Now this place is buzzing as Sangeet Natak Akademi is celebrating the Festival of Performing Arts featuring recipients of the Akademi Fellowships and Akademi Awards 2014.

The main course for this evening is Nautanki - yes Nautanki! - and dance performances from Haryana and Mizoram set the stage for another surprise.

Lalit Kala Akademi at Rabindra Bhawan, Mandi House, New Delhi

The Art Gallery at Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan

Stage being readied for Festival of Performing Arts at Meghdoot Theatre

Voila - a week later! at Meghdoot Theatre

Meghdoot Theatre Complex

Some Haryanvi Twirl

The lovely Mizo Bamboo Dance

The tiptoe and the clap of bamboos

Yes this is a month of firsts – now Nautanki and then soon Opera!

Indal Haran (abduction of Indal), the Nautanki play in Hindi is directed by Ram Dayal Sharma who also plays the role of Udal and the play is presented by Brij Lok Madhuri, Mathura. Indal Haran is representative late 19th century Nautanki/Saangit. Authored by the Indraman Akhara of Hathras, the play is one of the dozens of Nautankis that depict the exploits of the famous 12th century Banafar/Chandela warrior brothers Alha and Udal. Chitralekha, a princess who has magical powers, sees Alha’s son Indal at a festival on the banks of Ganges and falls in love with him. When Indal takes a dip in the river, she turns him into a parrot and takes him to her kingdom in Central Asia. What happens next is an amazingly engaging tale of romance and bravery. (Source: Festival Booklet)

Now Nautanki uses both spoken dialogues and songs are sung live by the actors accompanied with musical instruments. The nautanki has a very earthy and hinterland feel and you can imagine the nautanki band going around the villages entertaining the country folks when there were no cinemas.

Indal Haran Nautanki at Sangeet Natak Akademi, Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi

Nautanki is like a live movie playing out on a stage with dialogues and songs and music

Jin Zi, A Sichuan Opera at the FICCI Auditorium, 9th Delhi International Arts Festival, New Delhi, 16th to 31st October 2015

Curtains come down on the incredible October month with a rousing performance by Chinese Sichuan Opera.

You have never watched an opera before and DIAF is giving you chances that you cannot pass up. Opera is a drama set to music with singing, dancing and the dialogues delivered are sung.

Today you are watching the Chinese opera called Jin Zi, a Sichuan Opera adapted by Chongqing Sichuan Opera Theatre. The heroine or soprano Shen Tiemei, extolled as the Queen of Sichuan Opera, is also the chairperson of Sichuan Opera Theatre Chongqing and has been honoured with several national awards. This opera has won all performing awards in China. Jin Zi is regarded as a milestone in modern theatres and recognized as the most important work of Chinese Operas at the end of 20th century.

The performance is brisk and energetic with the performers singing, thudding around the stage and sometimes diving to the ground. Something you have never seen in plays is the concept of sword-hiding which is unique feature of Sichuan Opera – one moment there is a sword and next moment the sword disappears in the robe leaving no trace. The Chinese story seems typical Hindi movie like with a wife, husband and mother-in-law and then the lover making his entry. There is lot of crying, heart-ache and people dying. Of course Shen Tiemei is the queen as she goes through a gamut of emotions in this tragic love story. 

FICCI KK Birla Auditorium with the adjoining National Museum of Natural History

Jin Zi Sichuan Opera at FICCI Auditorium, New Delhi

The Soprano Shen Tiemei in the titular role of Jinzi

Jin Zi with her husband and lover

The cast of Jin Zi, Sichuan Opera at 9th Delhi International Arts Festival October 2015 being felicitated. With Prathibha Prahlad (black saree), the founder of DIAF

A trip through the cultural kaleidoscope of Delhi has provided you with a dazzling display of our country's myriad colours and people. This is so true for the city of Delhi, a city that has seen over the ages people come from across the country and across the borders, to adopt it and make it their own and which turned it into a microcosm of our country. The culture scene does provide enough clues to what makes the city so diverse and yet so inclusive. Delhi enriched with this fantastic concoction of cultures has continued to thrive through its people even as kingdoms and cities fell with alarming regularity. It is this set of people and their practises, their festivals, their beliefs that constitutes this great city helping it thrive and buzz with vigour and colour. 

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