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Theatric Monocle: In conversation with Padmashri Shobha Deepak Singh

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By Archana Rao
For more than four decades, Shobha Deepak Singh has dedicated her heart and soul into expanding the dimensions of the interpretation of Indian mythology through plays and musical performances. The director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, New Delhi spoke exclusively to NewsGram on her journey so far in the field of performing arts.
Archana Rao: You are a person with multiple personalities. Costume designer, producer, photographer, script writer. How would you describe yourself?
Shobha Deepak Singh: I think I have a multivalent personality. One thing is that I’m a workaholic and an avid documenter. I like archiving all the photographs, videos, and other materials of my plays very carefully. A few days ago I asked my team to take out every photograph that I had clicked and got all of them scanned. Here at Kala Kendra, we have the most fantastic audio lab in which we have documented four track tapes which one might have never even heard of. We converted them into CDs and then transferred them into computer to have a backup. You can’t imagine what gems there are.
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 AR: You have been involved in performing arts for more than 47 years.  What aspect or section do you love the most?
 SDS: It has been a wonderful 47 years. My first assignment was in 1968 as the first manager of the Kamani  auditorium. Since then I’ve come a long way. From a costume designer, to a photographer, and now the  director of Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra for 20  years. I’ve donned different caps. But I think my true spirit lies in  theater  performances. From musicals to dramas to ballet, I’ve always tried to enhance the experience of theater in each of my plays.
 AR: In many of your plays, you incorporated Indian mythology and ballet. How did you come up with the idea to create such a fusion?
 SDS: I think it is useless to do any mythology unless we can make it relevant to today’s generation. Personally I believe that I want to bring out Indian mythology from the circle of blind faith. I’ve specialized in presenting Indian mythology on stage through plays. But it becomes all the more challenging when I have to depict it via ballet. The narrations which run during the plays are self explanatory. But the dance brings out the essence of the story and the narration.
AR: You have brought in a lot of modern aesthetic elements on stage for plays like stronger lights and smarter sets. How important has this become to keep the stage technically sound?
SDS: The stages have become more artist friendly. In 1957, there used to be three theaters in here. I remember when the curtain would drop on stage, it would be terrible. The backstage was designed in such a way that the actors would have to run across the stage from one corner to the other to enter and exit and also the curtains were extremely bulky.
One year, I tried to conceptualize and design the set for Ramayan and focus on designing palaces and forests. We came up with the idea of revolving panels. So on one side of the panel there was a palace and on the other side there was a forest set. My husband helped us transform the stage. He is an engineer and orchestrated a lot of things. He made it really convenient to transform the panel into different palaces like Janak Fort to Ravan fort within minutes. All these things wouldn’t have been possible without his help. Every now and then he would climb stairs and fix the lights himself.
AR: How has the audience changed over the years?
SDS: I started attending the shows here at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra when I was seven years old. The audience used to generally consist of elderly IMG_0366people who would come and see our shows. At that time we had only one main show, that was Ramayan, and they loved watching it since they were very much fascinated with such plays. As the time went by, the production values got enhanced. Soon older people and their children also started watching the show. Now, the majority of the crowd consists of the younger generation. This has been possible because we’ve tried to take the theater to the absolute taste of young audience.
AR: Do you think the theater scenario is struggling in India?
SDS: I don’t think so. National School of Drama has an annual festival, they conduct four plays a day at various places like Kamani auditorium and Abhimanch auditorium in Delhi and all their performances are houseful. This is a big encouragement as the students are extremely talented.
AR: You have worked with some of the finest artists in the country like Ebrahim Alkazi. Please share some of your fondest memories while working with him.
SDS: Mr. Alkazi was my Guru. He conducted my first photo exhibition at the time when I thought I knew nothing about photography. But he thought the photographs were good. Such gestures make you think… wow… what a man he is.
I always say that three people have been pillars of my life. Apart from Mr. Alkazi, my husband and my father have had a huge impact on me. I was doing a course under Mr. Alkazi at the time when my daughter’s marriage preparations were going on. I would work continuously, even at odd hours. My husband Deepak never complained about it. He would say only one thing, never look back. His encouragement and support has brought me so far in life.
AR: What are your upcoming projects?
SDS: We are jam-packed for at least 4 months with back to back shows. We are conducting Ramayan (play) at Mauritius from 20th to 25th August. We are now preparing for our upcoming musical play, Krishna which is scheduled from 1st September to 5th. We will also be performing Meera (play) at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 26th of September. And then in October we are going to conduct Ramayan again in Delhi.

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Muslim Youths Belittle Hindu Religion on Social Media to Create Communal Tension

Muslim youths have been belittling Hindu religion and ideologies from a long time now to fuel communal hatred amongst the communities

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Hindu Religion
Hindu Religion. Pixabay

Sep 29, 2017: Ahmed, a Muslim youth was arrested in Hamirpur on Wednesday for posting obscene and communally sensitive posts on Hindu holy textbooks through a fake account of Sundaram, former district coordinator of RSS student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The incident angered the community in Maudaha, Uttar Pradesh.

Following the episode, Sundaram filed a police complaint after which Ahmed was arrested. According to Opindia, Ahmed admitted that he wanted to create communal tension among the community and start a communal riot in Maudaha.

Ahmed has also posted obscene posts on Prime Minister Modi and Chief Minister Yogi in the past and surfaced similar content on the various social media platforms.

Lately, a FIR was registered against a Delhi University professor, Kedar Kumar Mandal for his lewd Facebook post parallelling Goddess Durga to a ‘sexy prostitute.’

Also Read: Is Hamid Ansari a thankless Muslim Indian? 

Another incident where seven Muslims were arrested in Chamba, Uttarakhand for ostensibly making fake profiles likely under Hindu names and passing obscene comments at girls on the social media platform. The accused identified as- Rizwan Khan, Salman, Mohammed Warish, Salman, Shabir Kasim, Abul Kalam and Mohammed Shabir – were charged with making obscene comments and disturbing communal harmony, mentioned the Amar Ujala.

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Delhi Thumri Festival 2017 to Witness the Performances of the Best Vocal Traditions in North India

A new style of Thumri, known as “Varanasi” developed in the late 19th century and it was not dependent on dance

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Delhi Thumri Festival 2017
Girija Devi performs classical and light classical music and has helped elevate the profile of thumri. Wikimedia
  • Thumri is a genre of lively semi-classical Indian music
  • The origin of Thumri is linked with Kathak, a form of classical dance
  • For the past seven years, Sahitya Kala Parishad has never failed in delivering a successful musical fare in Delhi

New Delhi, August 30, 2017: Thumri is a genre of lively semi-classical Indian music. it is regarded as one of the most significant types of music in North India after Khayal. In Thumri, a common theme is Lord Krishna’s romance with Radha, his companion, and gopis. This year, Delhi will witness the magic of Thumri in the month of September.

The Origin-

The origin of Thumri is linked with Kathak, a form of classical dance. Thumri requires delicacy, a soulful voice to deliver its actual beauty. This form has evolved due to Awadh’s Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and Sadiq Ali Khan, the musician of his court and play a big role in what thumri is today. Wajid Ali Shah was Lucknow’s governor for the period between 1847 and 1856. His reign saw the rise of architecture, music, poetry, dance, and drama. His contribution to India’s Art is a lot. However, some musicologists feel that before him, Thumri grew as a classical form after which it achieved popularity. A new style of Thumri, known as “Varanasi” developed in the late 19th century and it was not dependent on dance.

Thumri and Perspectives-

Many traditionalists opposed the blending of dance and music in this form. However, there also existed numerous classical musicians who got attracted to this form, as it has the ability to mix notes belonging to other Ragas through innovation. Due to this reason, Thumri was selected by various performers, including instrumentalists as well as singers. This gave rise to many forms of Thumri.

Even after so many years, the tradition and love for this form of music have not completely vanished. This has been made possible by Sahitya Kala Parishad, part of the Delhi government’s Department of Art, Culture, and Languages. For the past seven years, it has never failed in delivering a successful musical fare in Delhi. Shrimati Sindhu Mishra, the organizer of this fare, has not only introduces best vocal traditions in North India, but she has also motivated the singers of genre other than Thumri to give a performance on her stage.

ALSO READRagas for Preschool Children: Combining Classical Music with Fun Exercises

Some of the extremely talented, but less exposed singers who have been provided with a platform in Delhi’s Thumri festival include Banaras’ Debashish Dey, Samrat Pandit, Pandit Channulal Mishra, Pandit Ajoy Chakravorty among others.

Delhi Thumri Festival 2017-

This year this festival will be held at Kamani Auditorium in Delhi from 1-3 September. The festival will commence with the performance of Vidushi Arti Ankalikar who will be portraying the Jaipur Atrauli gayeki. This will be followed by Indrani Mukherjee. Her guru was the famous Vidushi Purnima Chaudhari, but now she learns from Banaras’ Manju Sundaram. She says he teaches in the Gurukul way of old times. The first day of the concert will be terminated by Pandit Chanulal Mishra of Banaras.

The second day will witness the performance of Indore’s Kalpana Zokarkar. She has a good musical descent which comprises of training in Ustad Rajab Ali Khan’s tradition. This will be the first platform for Kalpana and she agreed that she is excited about her staging. Ramakant Gaikwad, who is an upcoming singer portraying the Patiala Gharana Thumri, will be next. To put an end to the evening, the stage will be handed over to the well known Padmashri Smt Malini Awasthi.

On the final day, Delhi based singers Pooja Goswami and Meeta Pandit, the fifth descendant of the erudite family of Gwalior Pandit will take over the stage. The grand finale will be made memorable by the performance of Padma Vibhushan Vidushi Girija Devi.

-prepared by Harsimran Kaur of NewsGram. Twitter @Hkaur1025


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Fiji to organise Concerts on Hindu Epic Ramayan: Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan fame actor Arun Govil to attend the event

Arun Govil, who played Lord Rama in the Hindu mythological television series Ramayan, and Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo have collaborated to perform the concerts

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  • Arun Govil ,Sumeet Tappoo and leading musicians from Indian film industry likely to attend the event
  • The world tour will kick start at FMF Gymnasium in Suva on September 23, and at Prince Charles Park in Nadi on September 25
  • Apart from Islam and Christianity, the major religion in the Indo-Fijian community is Hinduism

Sept 21, 2016:

“To be happy always is something which is difficult to achieve. That is to say, happiness and sorrow alternate in one’s life and there cannot be uninterrupted happiness alone.”

-RAMAYANA

Two concerts focussing on the Hindu holy text Ramayana will be held in Fiji by the end of September, this year. Popular Arun Govil of Lord Rama fame in the Dayanand Sagar’s television series Ramayan, and Fiji-born singer Sumeet Tappoo likely to have collaborated to perform in the concerts.

Apart from Islam and Christianity, the major religion in the Indo-Fijian community is Hinduism and therefore a variety of Hindu festivals like Holi, Diwali are celebrated here. Over time, Fijians have open-heartedly absorbed these Indian cultures and celebrate them with great enthusiasm and fervor.

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Hindu Holy texts- Ramayana and Mahabharata have entrenched a very important position in the lives of Fiji people, Hindu community in particular. The admiration for these Hindu epics have lead to a dedication through these concerts.

The concerts will feature  Ram Katha by Govil and a Bhajan Sandhya by Tappoo and Govil will also speak about the stories from the Hindu book and its relevance and message for modern society while Tappoo with six leading musicians from the Indian film industry will be singing devotional songs (bhajans).

Ramayan, where Lord Rama meets Bharata. Wikimedia

The source of entertainment for the people of Fiji are mainly Hindi movies and Hindi songs. A large number of video CDs, DVDs and cassettes of Hindi movies and songs are found in the common markets. Therefore it can be said that Indian Diaspora living in Fiji have found a home away from home.

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The duo will be going on the world tour at the FMF Gymnasium in Suva at 7:30pm on September 23, followed by the second concert at Prince Charles Park in Nadi from 6pm on September 25.

– by Yokeshwari Manivel of NewsGram