Why you should save the date for Cultural Cocktail

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

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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?

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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
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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.

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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

5 Reasons Why Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya is the Ultimate Love Anthem

“Why be afraid when you are in love?” is what Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya literally translates to. It appears in the iconic film Mughal-e-Azam which was released in 1960 after 14 years of production. Here’s why it might just as well be termed as India’s song of defiance.

1. It defies persistent gender roles

Gender, as Judith Butler (1960) contends, is constructed through a set of repeated performances. The dance by Madhubala’s Anarkali serves the male gaze appropriately- you will find the camera focusing on her many a time during the sequence. However, Anarkali does not shy away from this gaze. She confronts it and this is a major point of departure from what would otherwise be expected out of a woman of her times in India. She liberates herself from the framework of gender that she operates in.

2. A symbol for LGBT rights movement

Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya has now become a slogan for the emergent LGBT (Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, Transgender) rights movement in India. It is an anthem about the triumph of love across social boundaries. The song surpasses time and space. It has gained significance as a form of protest voiced by more than an Anarkali. Madhubala’s Kathak is today a symbol of love against conservative forces. It is not long before this song can be an effective answer to those who are so worried about love-jihad.

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A line from the song on a poster for Rainbow Walk on Delhi Road. Image Source

 

3. A Drag Queen of sorts?

A drag queen is a man who ostentatiously dresses up in women’s clothes. Going by queer theory, a male drag queen in stylizing normative femininity simultaneously deconstructs it too. Madhubala’s drag queen not only challenges dominant discourses of power contained within a patriarchal nation-state, but she also threatens the discourses on sexualization of the body. She is aware of her class, religion, nationality and gender, yet she chooses to digress from the destiny paved for her.

Like all women who do this, her demise in the tale is also not very surprising. The song is that struggle for the identity of the subaltern which keeps returning to the Bollywood celluloid.

4. Anarkali is a brave subaltern

She is a courtesan. She is Muslim and what’s worse is that she is a woman. In short, she embodies all that you would not like to be in a royal setup comprising men during the Mughal period in India. Salim had, in fact, just before the performance, accused her of being a bujdil laundi (cowardly slave). A play of power recurs through the song-and-dance performance but even that fails to deter the spirit of love in the status of a subaltern that Anarkali finds herself in. She is a woman with little agency dancing across an empire’s patriarch.

5. The sequence reflects India’s tryst with destiny

Anarkali’s performance for the court can be compared to Bollywood’s performance for Jawaharlal Nehru. The movie Mughal-e-Azam opens with a baritone proclaiming, “I am Hindustan”. The then Hindustan was associated with sentiments different from those it now is. The film was made during India’s period of nation-building. Despite being set in the Mughal period, the sequence vividly portrays what was despised by the nationalist elites of post-colonial India- films (they were equated with gambling). What is now called the Golden Age of Indian cinema was then not a cakewalk for the film industry because it used to be regarded more as a perversion or disruption to advancement than as a form of cultural expression. This hurdle is encountered by Anarkali as well.


The song is a breakthrough from several dominant social norms. This does not make it any less appealing to the masses. It enthralls audiences all the same despite being as revolutionary as it is. This is what makes it the ultimate love anthem.

Do share if you find any other reason why this song-and-dance should be called so.

The Republic of Cowrashtra

Ours is a nation which imagines the mother in the cow and the nation in the mother. I wish to disintegrate through this article the dual concepts of Bharat Maata (Mother India) and Gau Maata in light of the recent events happening across the nation.

Why I don’t have a Bharat Maata

The symbol of a mother is often used to identify a nation. This is in view of the analogy that women can conceive and land can sustain the lives of its denizens. This kind of an analogy essentially leads to a very patriarchal kind of nationalism which necessitates women, the incarnation of the Bharat Maata to be protected. Who are going to protect them? The answer is one that history has time and again implied in various ways- men. Men who are the soldiers and martyrs of the nation are supposed to protect Mother India’s honour from being violated by outsiders.

Implications of the woman-nation analogy

The nationalist and patriarchal agenda converge at this point. Both either implicitly or explicitly suggest that women, the weaker sex, need to be protected by their stronger counterparts (?) men. This takes away considerable amount of autonomy from women who, under these agenda, are seen as potential mothers and caregivers. It seems to be almost natural that women are destined to be mothers. Hence, some feminists have called this a ‘protection racket’.

Moreover, the nationalist agendum of protecting the mother from outsiders who may squander with her assets (honour thought of as the most valuable asset) is loaded with its own exclusionist implications. It views as the other anyone who does not protect cows- a nationalist symbol of motherhood.

Towards a Cowrashtra

Cow protectionism is not new to us. Even when our ancestors were fighting the freedom movement, this issue created quite a communal rift. Little has changed over the centuries. The Rashtriya Swayamshatru (yes, that’s what I prefer calling it) Sangha (RSS) has made sure that everyone who is involved in the consumption or production of beef, is treated as the other. This other includes not just the Muslim who is otherwise the eternal other of India, but also the Dalits whose occupation is to skin dead cows. What can objectively be called brutality has been meted out to these people while an otherwise vocal leader of the nation has chosen silence as golden when it has come to this issue.

There is of course no problem if a particular religion attributes motherhood to an animal. It is, however, problematic when the Hindu identity is conflated as the Indian identity and Indians across other religions are homogenized as Hindus who should not consume beef.

Forced Nationalism

A similar kind of forced nationalism was witnessed when the Supreme Court ruled on November 30, 2016 that everyone needs to rise when the national anthem is played in theatres. This indeed is nationalism and I dare say that it may be jingoism as well. Patriotism cannot be forced. Nationalism does not necessarily culminate into patriotism. If it’s a matter of individual discretion as to whether or not one would watch a movie, it is also a matter of patriotism that one feels towards their country which determines whether they would stand during the national anthem whose lyricist himself dreamt of a time

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls

I have elucidated earlier that modern-day nationalism has started to take the role of a religion per se. This is one contribution that India seems to be successfully making to the rest of the world, especially the United States of America. If Indian nationalism is a religion, it is increasingly being coloured saffron to the exclusion of minorities. It is up to us whether at this crucial moment in history we choose to be just bhakts or Desh bhakts.


Featured Image: “The Saffron Queen”- Janine Shroff’s reinterpretation of ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ for Elle India Nov

Alfred to Afzal- Timeless Dilemma of the Faithful Traitor

If institutionalised anti-Semitism accounted for the injustice meted out to Alfred Dreyfus, L’affaire Afzal Guru was a result of unchecked Islamophobia imposed on a nation-state of millions.

Paris. January, 1895. The immediate shadow of the symbol of modernity, La Tour Eiffel in fancy French or the Eiffel Tower as is called by anglophones. A young artillery officer is stripped of his insignia medals, his sword is broken over the knee of the degrader and he is jeered at by a crowd shouting “Judas” in unison despite his desperate cries, “I swear that I am innocent. I remain worthy of serving in the Army. Long live France! Long live the Army!”

Delhi. February, 2012. A jail in the political capital of the largest democracy of the world. A surrendered militant who had been denied a lawyer, is secretly executed early in the morning without being allowed to meet his family for one last time- all to satisfy “the collective conscience of the society”. Cable television and internet services are shut down to prevent the spread of news about the incident.

The sole crime of both these convicts was to be born not as the Faceless Foreigner, but as the inalienable Enemy Within. If institutionalised anti-Semitism accounted for the injustice meted out to Alfred Dreyfus, L’affaire Afzal Guru was a result of unchecked Islamophobia imposed on a nation-state of millions. If the former was Judas by dint of being born a Jew in a milieu dominated by Catholics, the latter was Vibhisana by virtue of being born a Muslim in a country mostly inhabited by Hindus. The blot of cultural scapegoating has as much stained the pages of history as it continues to stain headlines till date.

The Dreyfus affair created a ridge in the then French society between the pro-army, mostly Catholic ‘anti-Dreyfusards’ and the anti-clerical, pro-Republican Dreyfusards. The aftermath of the execution of Guru was marked by a sharp disagreement between calling him a militant and a martyr. While Dreyfus was bearing upon his shoulders the crime originally committed by Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, of passing to the Germans information regarding new artillery parts, Guru was encumbered with treason by aiding Jaish-e-Mohammad in attacking the Indian Parliament- an act forced upon him by the Indian intelligence agencies. Dreyfus was free at the cost of his honour. He still is espionage in the eyes of law. Guru was free only in death- his corpse buried under public wrath of a democracy which boasts of equal rights for all.

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Image Source

Lt. Colonel Georges Picquart, the new chief of French military intelligence who reported to his superiors that he had found evidence to the effect that the real traitor was Esterhazy and

For love of justice and for love of truth”—
Aye, ‘t was for these, for these he put aside
Place and preferment, fortune and the pride
Of fair renown;

-was silenced by being transferred to the southern desert of Tunisia. Afzal Guru was denied a lawyer until Sushil Kumar, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court agreed to fight his case. To him, Afzal said,

“STF made [me] an [a] scapegoat in all this criminal act which was designed and directed by STF and others which I don’t know. Special Police is definitely the part of this game because every time they forced me to remain silent.”

The strength of both the French and the Indian liberal democracies gagged the voices which demanded justice.

The scapegoats at hand spent their lives on the basis of meritocracy. The first sign of disaffection against the Jewishness of Dreyfus manifested itself when General Bonneford granted him poor marks for cote d’amour (likeability), thus bringing down his overall grade for the War College examination in 1892. Guru, an aspiring doctor had not only had his aspiration of becoming a doctor crushed under the fact that he was a surrendered militant, but he was also denied a government job. However, the intelligence agency did not find it unlawful to abuse him as a human resource when it asked him to escort Mohammad to Delhi and help him find a rented room and a car. The eyes of Justice were blindfolded with jingoism (nationalism in the contemporary parlance).

Both the convicts were dehumanized but never detached of their ascribed identities (of Jew and Muslim), which became battlegrounds of pertinent definitions- soldier or spy, militant or martyr, friend or foe- identities which have been blurred by modernity. The shocking public reaction to the legal proceedings against both Alfred and Afzal compounded the dilemma of a conscience collective and how it should ideally function in a civilized setting, not because of social indifference, but because of the very breach of human rights that public intervention displayed.

Law, besides being a product of the conscience collective, is a cause for the same, especially when it comes to the context of the eternal other. It is a convenient weapon wielded by the majority to tweak justice to its favour. The facts of history have been erased from the considerations of law. Modernity is as liquid as it was at the fin de-siècle a century ago, as it now is. Simultaneously, it is surprisingly watertight with hardly any space for the ability to gauge the balance of individual responsibility with social, political and economic circumstance to seep through. The eternal case of the faithful traitor effectively challenges the perpetual quest for progress that societies across the world are trapped in- be it on the map of the occidental past, or that of the oriental present.