Eye on India

This review is a long time coming. But better late than never, eh!

Early in July last year, a brand new association called Anukool had a city wide India event. The concept was good, as they covered many aspects of the Indian cultural scene. So there was the dance show, classical music, india pop, movie screenings etc, but it also had modern and classical painting exhibitions and panel discusssions with writiers and journalists. The events list was impressive, the venues were well chosen for maximum impact but the question was impact on whom?

Strangely, there was hardly any publicity about the event except through some mailing lists. On the other hand the prices were decent until towards the end when obviously many tickets were left unsold and they started slashing prices until they started giving them away for free.  This whole fiasco of course brought up the usual uproar about how Indians have no pride in their own culture. But my point is, how well did you advertise the event, for you to be able to make such a claim. Devon, the unquestionable hub of desis in Chicago, had maybe a couple of flyers, there was no attempt at advertising on Indian radio or TV channels, none at all on public transportation systems, if you were not already a member of one Indian cultural group or other, you had no way of knowing. I think my cab driver put it best, “yeh sab Amrikan logon ke liya laga hua kya?” It does seem like it was catered to a certain socia-economic level. Which is fine in itself, but then dont blame Indians and their “pride”

Now on to the actual events. Although there was a wide range of events held, I somehow felt there was something missing in quality. Of course, this bit can’t be blamed on the organizers only, it seemed partly the artists and the audience. For example, take the interview with Tabu. Of course I don’t have much hopes of witnessing an intelligent conversation with Bollywood actresses, but somehow, probably because of the roles she has chosen to play, I thought Tabu would have been an exception.  I thought perhaps, maybe, possibly we might get to hear some thought provoking insights into the Hindi/Tamil/Telugu film industry and the role of women in it. Boy, was I disappointed! When asked how she chose movies like Maachis and a Telugu movie where she plays a police officer trying to get justice for her dead brother (sorry forgot the name!) and if such challenging roles are hard to come by for young actresses in the Indian film industry, she gives a standard spiel about how she is so indebted to the director “saabs” of this or that movie and how they treat her like their own daughter and really help her in her role…blah, blah, blah!! She did not even have a decent answer, other than “oh it is very different, the cameras are really huge” when asked to describe her experience working on a new 3D movie with Ang Lee. Really? the cameras were really huge? that’s it?!!!

And if the artist was dissapointing in one the audience was sub par in the other. With a panel containing Tarun Tejpal and other preeminent journalists all the audience could come up with were, how do you interact with other journalists on a personal basis, what do you tell non-indian journalists when they ask you about an Indian (Hindu) ritual! nothing about current events, nothing about the “Anna”phenomenon or the role of social media in current events, nothing!!

Anyway, I guess enough of the negative. I must say however, that apart from these major flaws, it was nice to have a whole week dedicated to everything Indian. The paintings, were really impressive, I dont have much knowledge or exposure to modern art in India, but the ones I saw were pretty good. The puppet theater performed by a troupe from Rajasthan was also quite exemplary. They could have paid a little more attention to explaining the context of the story, but nevertheless, there was no question about the talent or execution of the performers, one of the best evenings I got to spend in the city.

All in all, despite its defects, I am looking forward to this next year’s installment of the same. Hopefully, this time they will advertise it well 🙂

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