Many visiting artistes practising India’s fine arts, including Carnatic and Hindustani music and classical and folk dances often tell us that ‘Bollywood belongs to the entertainment industry and is not the representative of the great country’s rich cultural and social heritage.’
“Yet, it is only entertainers from the Hindi film industry who reap the rich harvest from programmes held in New Zealand and Australia,” they say.
Taj Mahal: A Dance Drama, staged at the Dorothy Winstone Centre of Auckland Girls Grammar School on July 28, 2012 was among the finest shows held in recent years. It was a musical and dance extravaganza, capturing one of the most important periods in Indian history. Narrated by a tourist guide to a foreign visitor, the three hours plus programme was remarkable for its visual, light and sound effects, colourful costumes and professional organisation.
Several dance schools were involved with the project investing scores of hours of practice in their own schools and at venues organised by Aiswarya Entertainments Limited. The performers showcased their talents in sartorial resplendency bringing to the fore one of the most eventful eras of Mughal India, leading to the construction of the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra, near Delhi. The young men and women showed commitment, enthusiasm and professionalism, appeasing the audience.
However, belly dancing was incongruous and inappropriate. A number of people who witnessed the programme told this reporter that this form of dancing was prevalent in the Arab world but not in India. The organisers would do well to delete the items in their next show.
Monisha Kumar and students from her ‘Monisha School of Dance’ were outstanding in their performances, along with others, who had proved their prowess at the first show held on March 31, 2012 at ASB Theatre (Indian Newslink, April 15, 2012).
Passion & Perseverance
Aiswarya Entertainments Limited, which produced and presented ‘Taj Mahal, deserves credit for weathered through rough times, financial loss and worst of all, the sheer indifference of various government bodies and agencies that so eagerly proclaim to promote and support programmes that highlight culture and arts.
Sasi Nambissan and Dr Rita Sasidharan, directors of the company, spent more than two years in producing the mammoth programme. They visited India several times to select materials for the costumes, have them tailored to suit the artistes, discuss the Dance Drama with a professional in Hyderabad appointed by them, choose and record music to the highest standards possible and execute countless other tasks.
Their passion for Indian culture and heritage almost became an obsession, with all their weekends and holidays spent on improvisation and improvements.
“We wrote to every funding agency and government department involved with arts, culture, tourism and social development. All of them replied in the negative, without even bothering to seek further details of the programme. We thought that a show of this magnitude, involving more than 100 performers from various ethnic communities resident in New Zealand would attract their attention. It is a pity that none of them bothered,” he said.
Indifference & ignorance
Labour MP Dr Rajen Prasad and prominent businessman Wenceslaus Anthony, who were the pillars of strength for Mr Nambissan and Dr Sasidharan, were also critical that the Dance Drama did not receive any patronage from organisations that could have supported it.
According to Mr Nambissan, if public institutions were indifferent because of their ignorance of Indian culture, many members of the Indian community were guilty of failing to support such an impressive show.
“The audience accounted for about 500 men and women, and the efforts to bring them to the theatre were strenuous. If Bollywood should be the only form of entertainment, no one will ever have the courage to promote Indian culture and heritage. It is a pity,” he said.
It is possible that these are overstatements and all of us were overreacting. It is possible that poor audience response was due to inclement weather, the on-going Holy Month of Ramadan and many other factors.
We hope that organisations such as Aiswarya Entertainments Limited would not be disheartened and desist from producing such quality shows in the future.
There would be a turning point at some stage.
The younger generation, particularly people from the Indian Subcontinent, are beginning to evince interest in our ancient culture and arts.
They would surely become active patrons in the future.
Performers enacting ‘Ghoomar,’ a folk dance of Rajasthan
The edifice of eternal love- Shah Jahan (Siddharth Krishnamoorthy) and Mumtaz (Natasha Trilokekar) with the Taj Mahal in the background