Why you should save the date for Cultural Cocktail

There is a lot to expect at the cultural restoration programme ‘Save the Language’.

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has embarked on the five-city Save the Language Campaign Tour. As part of this tour, Cultural Cocktail, conceptualized and created by young artists with roots in Jammu, would take place at the Showshaa Hall, Kingdom of Dreams, New Delhi on June 17 from 5:30pm to 9pm.

What’s on the Cocktail Menu?


Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award

This PAN India award instituted in the memory of Mrs. Prem Jamwal, will be inaugurated during the event. Mrs. Jamwal, the wife of Kunwar Viyogi was a par excellence painter and stage performer. She was the youngest daughter of Joint Commissioner Hira Singh and niece of national hero, Martyr Brigadier Rajender Singh.

The award will be presented for creative presentation of unique world literature and art forms, aimed at widening the cultural reach and relevance for the younger generation. The award endeavours to motivate the youth in fulfilling their creative pursuits, while at the same time providing them with a platform so as to help them showcase their talent worldwide.

Ghar, Prem ki Gaagar

Kunwar Viyogi was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for his long poem Ghar. It depicts the intrinsic nature of love. The physical and emotional aspects have always been connected and represent the Divine Law. the spiritual aspect is embodied in the imagery of courage, beautifully powerful, the depth of which forms desire that guides human interaction in love. Eternally present, love never dissipates in humanity that comprehends its intrinsic nature. “The heart always finds its home in love.”

Sanchita, who has done her Master’s in Public Policy and Management, university of Melbourne, is a disciple of venerated Kathak Maestro Padma Shri Guru Shovana Narayan. She has performed on several renowned international platforms. In early 2014, she founded Rasadance, an organisation in Australia, building a bond with the centuries-old tradition of storytelling through dance.

The role of Sutradhar will be performed by the curator of Cultural Cocktail Ayushman Jamwal. A graduate of the Cardiff school of Journalism, he has authored Chameleon Lights. His book is a collection of 20 poems and features among the top ten best-selling books of English poetry on Amazon.

The music has been directed by Madhav Prasad. He and Jitendra Ji are the singers. With Mahavir Gangani on the Pakhawaj, Yogesh Gangani on the Tabla, Vinay Prasanna on the Flute, Mussrad Khan on the Sarod and Salim Kumar on the Sitar, the performance is definitely something to look forward to.

Taboo –  A Jazz Dance Performance by Anmol Jamwal

This piece is a stylized Jazz and Funk Choreography showcase that fuses contemporary Indian and International music. It’s a celebration of expression with no inhibitions or fear presented through the medium and theme of underground jazz clubs and free-conversation-like style movement.

Anmol Jamwal is a jazz dancer with over six years of work experience with the Danceworx Performing Arts. He started training with the Danceworx Performing Arts Company at the early age of 11. He featured in multiple showcases, performances and music videos and joined in full-time at the age of 19.

The co-performers are Mohit Raj Thapa, Tanya Suri, Denis Barwa, Saniya Jaiswal, Aastha Rana and Amala Sivaji.

Hindi Adaptation of Twelfth Night

Aarushi Thakur Rana, an MA in International Politics from Leicester, University, United Kingdom, is the recipient of the first Prem Jamwal Youth Art Innovation Award for staging the Hindi adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s popular English plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the 2016 Kunwar Viyogi Utsav. She is a trainee from Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. Rana, the daughter of Padma Shri awardee Balwant Thakur, has directed the Hindi adaptation of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.

It is the most famous Shakespearean Comedy with a twist that hinges on mistaken identity and role-reversal. The story revolves around the central character of Viola, shipwrecked and in search of her missing twin Sebastian.

This play is believed to have been performed for the first time in 1961 in front of Elizabeth I even before it was published in 1623, seven years after the death of William Shakespeare.

The Dogri Language

Dogri is one of the many languages in the world that are dying slow deaths. It is spoken by about four million people in Jammu, Himachal Pradesh and northern Punjab. Dogri served as a source of livelihood for many and defined the socio-political relevance of the region is desperately clutching on to its lost glory for a fleeting existence. While the caretakers of the language attempt to revive Dogri through traditional mediums, the youth consider it ‘unpopular and unattractive’, shunning it for its perceived lack of relevance, viability and sustainability in today’s changing times.

Dogri that nurtured diverse legendary talents like Allah Rakha, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, singer/actor K.L. Seghal, Padma Shri poet Padma Sachdev, renowned painter Dina Nath Walli, to name a few. It was the foremost identity of the generation gone by and continues to remain a home for those who are willing to embrace it.

The fact that despite producing one of the greatest talents in the world, the language had to wait for decades to be included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution, is testimony to the pitiable state of the language. Intensive lobbying in 2003 did help the language attain its rightful status. However, the sustainability of Dogri was not ensured. This is why we need to Save the Language.

Screenshot (71)

The Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust has been instituted in the memory of renowned Dogri litterateur editor, columnist and Sahitya Akademi Awardee Late Group Captain Randhir Singh, popularly known as Kunwar Viyogi in literary circles. Apart from its present responsibilities and commitment to preserve and share works, thoughts and life of Kunwar Viyogi, the Trust also aspires to promote among others cultural and artistic subjects/works like literature, painting, music shows, dramatic performances and dances reflecting/exhibiting Indian cultures/traditions.

The Trust acknowledges that a language is not just the expression of the mind and of culture, but also a machine to perpetuate the traditions of a society. It is the strings that binds a geopolitical setting together. It is because of a shared language that literature and various art forms flourish.

Kolkata Bloggers is proud to be associated with this event as its Social Media Partner. You can call 9971009337 or book tickets on BookMyShow and find the event on Facebook. A quick recapitulation of the event details is as follows.

Venue: Showshaa Hall, Kingdom of Dreams
Date: June 17, 2017
Time: 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM

Photo Courtesy: Kunwar Viyogi Memorial Trust

#ColdplayInIndia: A Head Full of Controversies 

Look at your fingers. You know exactly what I meant by the word “fingers” even though I did not personally go to you and gesticulate at the area near your palm. This is because you and I have mutually agreed upon a certain code which we shall follow to communicate with each other. This code is called language, but you see- it is nothing but a consensus on using symbols.

Now let me tell you about another symbol. Think about a white rectangular piece of cloth. You can use it to wipe sweat off your face, dry utensils or to save your hands from the heat of the container while taking a dish out of your oven. What if I took this piece of cloth, painted green and saffron borders through two respective lengths and drew a blue wheel with twenty-four spokes in the white area? This will never let you do anything but revere that same piece of cloth. That’s how immense the load of the symbols I have imparted to the piece of cloth is.

It’s the same with religion, isn’t it? You regard an object as sacred- so much so that it eventually becomes a totem. You treat it with respect; admonish yourself even at the thought of bringing it down to the profane sphere of existence. Think of a rosary to a Christian, or the Holy Quran to a Muslim. If nationalism was a religion, the national flag would likewise be its most revered totem. I cannot remember a time when I did not know that this flag is sacred. Similarly, I do not remember why it is so.

This brings us to some relevant questions: Is the nation then a religious group? If so, who are its prophets- our political leaders? These questions demand logical answers, but let us keep them for another day because right now we are at a political juncture that claims the solution to a more pertinent dilemma. Who gets to decide which gesture to our flag is disrespectful? We have assigned meanings to symbols and none but we can change them. I do not know how tucking the flag to one’s rear pocket, as Chris Martin did last night at the first ever Coldplay concert in India, is disrespectful, but I’d like to know if by the same rule, draping six yards painted with the tricolor around one’s entire body is not equally disrespectful.

#Coldplay singer #ChrisMartin insults Indian Flag in presence of #BJP &#ShivSena leaders. Hurts sentiments of 120 Cr Indians. @PTI_News

Nawab Malik, Spokesperson, National Congress Party over Twitter

A still from Hymn for the Weekend

This is not the first time that Coldplay has been accused of slighting the heritage of India. When Hymn for the Weekend was released in January this year, the band was charged with cultural appropriation, implying that it has narrowed India down to yogis, poor children and the colours of Holi among others. A careful look at previous works of Coldplay will suggest how they have always cast their songs in a different setting which goes well with the theme. Their settings have always transcended reality, be it in the elephant reuniting with its band in Paradise or Chris returning to the idyllic past in The Scientist or the chimpanzees partying in the middle of a forest in Adventure of a Lifetime. So is it with Hymn for the Weekend which is a fusion of alternative rock, pop and R&B about having an angelic person in one’s life. It is not a Britpop centred around Holi. It merely seeks to recreate an ambience of psychedelia reminiscent of the hippie culture of the 60’s. This necessitates yogis and a colourful screen. There could be no place better than India to find this setting. That’s all. As a student of sociology, I do not find anything objectionable in the video, barring the cameo by Sonam Kapoor, but that’s my personal bias. Like come on, stop overthinking about issues that do not need attention and spare some of it over the ones that need it.

Ten months ago, Coldplay was blamed of cultural appropriation by the very Indians who went gaga when Chris Martin hummed a popular Bollywood number Channa Mereya at the Global Citizen Festival India last night (because hey, Europeans trying Hindi is so cute OMG but Pranab Mukherjee speaking English in a Bengali accent is hilarious). The Indians who are now blaming Martin of “disrespecting” the flag are not supposed to be amused at homogeneizing a culture, if one is to go by the recent political happenings here. It is almost the rule of the day here to marginalize every identity other than that of the majoritarian Hindu. Why else would a Muslim Najeeb meet such apathy from the bureaucracy? Hence, it sounds hilarious when Indians accuse foreigners of insulting their culture.

The double standards of the Indian audience has been exposed too much through how Coldplay has met with controversies in almost every recent association with the country. It took us many years to give back something to the West after globalization- we are successfully leading the world on the path of anti-globalization and I know not where the journey that has begun with shaking hands with a right-wing bigot will end. The ripples India is sending across the globe reek of jingoism; what scares me is that these ripples are not far from becoming formidable waves.

Two Odd Pages from a Journal

I performed this piece in my debut performance poetry event, Inbox by Saintbrush- the opening performance for ‘A History of Butchers’ by Mad About Drama (M.A.D) at Gyan Manch, Kolkata on 5th August, 2016.

The mailman delivered a box of clichés last night. It seems to have been sent by you. Wrapped in shining material with a perfectly colour-coordinated bow which reeks of courtships that have fossilised for eons in the soil of conventions, umm, the box looked somewhat appealing.

Turn to the bookmarked page

Ting! My cell-phone beeps every time you remember me. I cannot see your handwriting, but I’m sure if you grinned at my joke or blushed a little at the heart emoticon I had sent, because my screen can now emote or at least try to impersonate your emotions, thanks to the torchbearers of science. I have read blogs on texting etiquettes, I have memorized all the 8 ways of subtly indicating that I care for you; I have also…

Back to page ten

Yes, the box looked appealing. I opened it expecting you to surprise me. It had a letter with the smell of ink on it, smudged in some places with your messy fingers. A letter, it was, with minor spelling errors which I meticulously corrected. There was a mix-tape placed near it. I knew all the songs you would have compiled in it, yet played them to ensure I was right. While I was on my way from I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane to Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now

Turn to the bookmarked page again

I have also replied to all your messages instantly. A chatbox brimming with unread messages, to me, is a heap of potential typographical errors. I have rectified all your typos with clear asterisk signs since forever. But this time when I open your messages, it is not mere text or emoticons- it is a list of YouTube links. Not that I have not heard Thinking Out Loud and Yellow earlier, but your clichés don’t fail to amuse me.

To page ten again

Inside the box I see a perfume lying like the italicised alphabets in a page full of regular font. You always excelled at customisation, didn’t you? So you chose the very same apparel perfume from the exact brand I have always used. Despite knowing that you would send a handwritten letter, a mix-tape and my staple perfume, I feign surprise at your choice of gifts.

Back to the bookmarked page

I type out that I have heard both the songs and that my favourite singer is Ed Sh… I delete what I just typed, and send, “How did you come across these tracks? My gosh! They are lovely.”

Close the diary

Our transition from letterboxes to chatboxes has in it a series of infinities denying the ravages of the clock. The pages between my page ten and the one which is bookmarked are three hundred and sixty degrees apart. Three hundred and sixty degrees do not always imply a complete change. Just sometimes, it means that after oscillations between unexpected clichés and habitual surprises, you have returned to the starting point, unchanged.

Featured image by Anish Kayal

Ilhaam- Enlightenment on Stage

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Will Bhagwan acquiesce to the fierce storm that living a normal life unleashes? Will he go mad, or will he attain the enlightenment that has for long been eluding him? Ilhaam, the fourth production of The Nautanki Company, a theatre group founded by Xaverians Tejodipto Panda and Roshni Banerjee, answers some intriguing questions by universalising the inward journey of a middle-class man coping with the alienation from self which is so typical of a post-modern existence. Directed by Harsh Mahendru and written by Manav Kaul, this play was quite a challenge for the group which had never attempted to stage a script predominantly in Hindi. That they lived up to the challenge was substantiated by a mesmerised audience which offered a standing ovation to the production on the 23rd evening of February, 2016 at Gyan Manch, Kolkata.

We were thinking he was mad, and he was thinking the same about us.

The mood for the evening was set by Debayan Mondal, one of the most celebrated young faces of the beat-boxing scene in town, followed by which the plot unfolded in two spots on stage- a park bench and an Indian middle-class household. The stage was efficiently managed by Roshni Banerjee, while Calcutta Cacophony attributed to Ilhaam the right amount of publicity it deserves. Mrinmoy Chatterjee, a student of Biotechnology at Heritage Institute of Technology, Kolkata, did justice to the character of the protagonist Bhagwan, be it through his hair-raising performance or poetic monologues. Other scintillating performances were delivered by Tejodipto Panda (Mohan) and Rishi Raj Ghosh (Chacha). The supporting cast comprising Harsh Mahendru (Shukla), Julia Banerjee (Poonam), Sramana Ray (Pinky), Vishal Mudgal (Saurabh), Shubham Soni (Exorcist) enhanced the quality of the production with their soulful acting.

…and when there is no space for water in our well…. we say… this is quite normal!

Despite minor glitches in sound and pronunciation, The Nautanki Company outdid itself in terms of the content of play in its premiere of Ilhaam. Unlike their earlier productions such as ‘K?’, ‘Mind-Duck’ and Carcinogen’, the play at hand had a different director, and a philosophical theme that gave the audience much food for thought. The intermittent rounds of applause to the enthralling acting for a novice theatre group whose script was adorned with quotations ranging from Nietzsche (“Those who are dancing are always thought of as mad by those who can’t hear the music.”) to Ramana Maharishi (“Does the world ever come up to you and say- look here I am…”) stand for the fact that youth theatre in Kolkata is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Ilhaam-ed, as some theatre enthusiasts called their state of mind after having watched the play, aptly defines the contribution of The Nautanki Company to quality theatre in contemporary times.

Here are some visual remnants of the moments from Ilhaam as captured by Sourya Chakraborty.

Heels in Search of Goddess

Photograph by Rajatabha Ray

There is something about dance that makes it as much a medicine for the soul as literature. I remember the beginnings of being trained in Kathak as a child. Even though I hated taking those lessons and soon left the coaching, one thing I clearly recall about those few classes is how my teacher would emote with the music, and in no time, she would get across a state of mind to me. Back then, I used to imitate her steps, but now I know that the passion of a dancer in any auditorium is endemic. It has the power to send out waves of similar passion amongst the sea of audience. I was witness to one such endemic very recently.

Mallika Sarabhai is an activist and Indian classical dancer. She will perform a piece at the last session of day 2 at the Kolkata Literature Festival 2016. It will be a session different from the rest of the sessions because it will be a live performance. Well, if that is all you have expected from “Stri Shakti- In Search of the Goddess”, you are in for a surprise that will not only render your expectation as an understatement, but also awe the senses out of you.

There are only two temples of Draupadi in this country which otherwise makes a temple at every crossroad.

-Mallika Sarabhai

“We have to understand one thing”, began Sarabhai, “and that is, we look at everything, whether it is thought or action or language or culture or cooking from one single prism and that prism is patriarchy.” This was the theme throughout her dance drama that guided a mesmerised audience on one of the final days of Boimela through tales of those women who were not made into goddesses and those whose sufferings were deified with sexist intentions. Hence, she rhythmically narrated snippets from the Mahabharata. What universalised this narration of an Indian text set eons ago from now is the vantage point which the performer chose to narrate from. The prism of Draupadi, the princess who was commoditized several times in a ‘male-stream’ world, appealed to me- a Draupadi who, while walking through dark alleys late at night, while watching a barely dressed model campaigning for a real estate company, or even while reading in textbooks that 928 is a “satisfactory” sex-ratio, has felt disgraced. Sarabhai certainly struck a chord with her audience by switching between several characters within a matter of seconds with incomparable poise.

Every form of art, I believe, is revolution. If it does not challenge the existing norms that plague lives of many, then it is as futile as ornamentation of a naturally beautiful body. Thus she revolted, and how! From Sati’s frantic conversation with Yamraj to the childish portrayal of Nakula and Sahadeva during their encounter with a shared wife- the lady did it all. Each part of her body moved like pieces of a larger mirror- her body, reflecting a society constructed and manoeuvred by men. Her soul and her body were not isolated, but one meaningful entity that led us in the search for goddess. She redefined who a goddess is, and what parameters qualify a person as a one.

‘The Revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the Revolution!’

-Albert Einstein

The vocalist and musicians aptly complemented the meaningful Search of the Goddess as Sarabhai deployed rhythm to draw home through Draupadi some often ignored arguments such as “Yes, Krishna gave me cloth but then where was Gita’s truth? Was it not needed then?” Similarly, she explicated that Sati is a ‘Sati’ not because she refused to live, but because she challenged death. This event indeed gave to us (especially those intrigued by feminist retelling of mythologies) much food for thought.

DSC_5316 edited.jpg
Photo by Rajatabha Ray

It was while narrating a mythological allegory to the societal reluctance to crimes based on sexism that the brilliant dancer literally did something that we till a while ago had only been citing as an appreciation of her art; she painted an image with her footsteps, and how! When the painting was over, we, as audience, witnessed a lion (symbolic of the strength of the Goddess) before us. No doubt the performance received a standing ovation from the entire house which, I am sure, like me, will take home an inner speculation in Search of the Goddess.