Arts, sports bring best of India to Delhi’s culture street


New Delhi : The culture street of the capital – a stretch between the Copernicus Marg and Mandi House – is alive with the colours of the Indian culture to complement the 19th Commonwealth Games 2010 under way here.

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The crowds milled at the culture hubs staging the best of Indian and Commonwealth folk performing genres, clamouring for entry tickets and passes.

On Sunday evening, Kamal Sabri, son of legendary Sarangi maestro Sabri Khan, held an audience – spilling out of the open air theatre – spell-bound with a nearly two-hour rendition of Dance of the Desert performed by his ensemble of eight well into the night at the Sangeet Natak Akademi premises.

“I don’t necessarily think that art, culture and sports should be segregated. The body of culture and the body of sports together is a celebration of spirit of the nation – and that of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Games is the best opportunity to display the rich culture of India. Art, music, dance and sport have the power to reach out to the people,” Jayant Kastuar, the secretary of the Sangeet Natak Akademi whose team Prayas has conceived the Commonwealth capsule, told IANS.

“On the one hand, while we are representing the regions of India, on the other hand, we have creative interpretations of the Commonwealth literature by leading artists within the matrix of Indian performing arts.”

“The ancient artistic genres from heartland of India like Vidyapati Sangeet, Haveli Sangeet, Sopana Sangeet, Odissi Sangeet and Shyama Sangeet have been converted to popular music to give the fading traditions a new lease of life here for people to appreciate them,” Kastuar said.

According to Kastuar, the culture capsule was designed to draw attention to the “regional artistic heritage”.

Earlier Sunday, the country’s premier arts and culture institution hosted Manipuri danseuse Priti Patel, a Sanskrit theatre from Kerala, a Manipuri dance drama and Kul Varnika – Commonwealth Literature in Performance as part of SNA’s special Commonwealth exposition, Desh Parv.

Choreographer Shobha Deepak Singh, the director of the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, has been on her toes since Oct 4. “We are hosting two Ramayana festivals back-to-back – one that ends Oct 14 and the annual Ramlila, a day after that continues till Nov 3,” she said.

Performers of the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra choreographed a Commonwealth-specific version of a 15-day Ramayana that has been drawing packed halls throughout the week, while the adjacent Kamani Theatre featured the best of Indian classical musical exponents under its Delhi Classical Music Festival.

For Amal Allana, the chairperson of the National School of Drama, “the Commonwealth Games was a good time” to take her two flagship productions ‘Noti Binodini’ and ‘Erindira’ to the people.

“I have no way of judging if the Commonwealth Games is acting as a catalyst to promote arts and culture – but I can say that art is highly valued here,” Bruce Kraemer, an arts enthusiast from New York City, told IANS.

He was browsing through the 120 art works on display at the Lalit Kala Akademi which is exhibiting Indian contemporary art by 12 galleries under the umbrella, Art Celebrates 2010. The exhibition has been curated by Rupika Chawla.

“The building – Lalit Kala Akademi is so beautifully arranged and the variety is amazing. I am struck by the artists’ interpretation of the city and the Games. Indian arts have come of age – though not many people in the world know of it. It is like a secret. Some arts organisation should come forward to promote the show so that it can travel to several destinations,” Kraemer said.

He agreed that “culture and arts make for a healthy nation if tied to lifestyle events like sports”.

Kraemer’s friend Laurene H. Estrin, a technical producer, said: “Art Celebrates 2010 was on par with shows at MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), the Metropolitan Museum or the Guggenheim.”

“There is a new trend on Broadway these days. The lobby of the show houses performing musicals, exhibits art related to the performance. It draws more crowd. The Commonwealth Culture exposes combining arts, culture, entertainment and culture is no different offers a holistic view of India,” Estrin told IANS.

Delhi-based Susmita Chowbey, wife of renowned heart specialist and art collector Pradeep Chowbey, said: “It was best form of family outing combining education, heritage and fun.”

She came with her brood of children, grand children and relatives drawn from across the country – who were on a “Commonwealth vacation in Delhi”.