Backstage At The Royal Opera House
01-May-2019 | Source: www.hindustantimes.com
What is it like being backstage at a day-long symposium at the spectacularly-restored Royal Opera House to celebrate the contributions of the courtesan to India’s performing arts? Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to find out, when we participated in Delhi-based kathak dancer and founder of the Sufi Kathak Foundation, Manjari Chaturvedi’s paean to the subcontinent’s courtesan of yore. It featured discussions, films and speakers like doyenne of Hindustani classical music Shubha Mudgal, historian and author Dr Veena Talwar Oldenburg and Dr Lata Singh, an associate professor in the Centre for Women’s Studies, JNU, amongst others, besides being capped by a performance by Chaturvedi herself, at the end. To begin with, the experience of spending time in the hallowed and graceful building, a gift to the city from the erstwhile Royal family of Gondal, transports one to another era. Then the palpable sense of scholarship amidst the participants and the audience, men and women who’ve come from near and far, driven by their common love for the subject under discussion is a welcome respite from the everyday quotidian rush of city living. And lastly, there’s the food. Food for thought: in this case, how the tawiafs and courtesans were women of real glamour and financial independence who had commanded respect and influence in their time; how many of them had contributed to the freedom struggle; how patriarchy and British puritanism, amongst other things had marginalised them. Yes, there was much food for thought that afternoon.
And, food for the stomach. Cultural provocateur Asad Lalljee, CEO, Avid Learning and curator at the Royal Opera House, and his team had ensured that they had left no stone unturned to make the symposium a success in every way.