Rediscovering spaces and performances

Rediscovering spaces and performances
Exploring the stories of the various found spaces in the City, Project 560 (organised by India Foundation for the Arts in partnership with Citi India) proved to be an interesting event attended by a number of people in Bengaluru. A series of shows were conceived by theatre practitioner N Mangala of Sanchari Theatre, as part of ‘Project 560’, with an intention of exploring spaces that have left indelible memories and associations in our minds. Her chosen space was the popular restaurant Vidyarthi Bhavan in Gandhi Bazaar.

“The restaurant has managed to hold its own amidst the fast-paced transition of Bangalore to Bengaluru. It was indeed a challenge to utilise a space which is a cultural icon, for it is not just an eatery, but a meeting point for people from all walks of life,” says Mangala.

She adds, “The ‘masala dosa’, for which the eatery is famous, is made from the same ingredients as any other restaurant. What makes the restaurant special is the fact that the institution is strongly rooted in local culture, displaying a fierce love for all that is Kannada. It has been the favourite haunt of many celebrated writers, singers, artistes and politicians, with each special memory transforming into an oft-told tale.”

The production ‘Ghamaaghamaabhavana’ intended to turn Vidyarthi Bhavan into a stage for a scripted, yet impromptu theatrical discourse on Kannada language, literature and culture. The narrative unfolds in the restaurant with famous personalities of yesteryears taking shape on stage as characters and conversing with present-day writers and artistes about issues concerning Kannada language and culture. The performance involved not just theatrical elements and music, but also the aroma of coffee, the taste of ‘dosas’ and the nostalgia of the years gone by.

This presentation was preceded by ‘Aavaranaabhijnana’, a literary expression of spaces that have been lived in and loved. The final performance of the series was ‘Uttaravaranadolondu Hadugala Hoodota’ in front of KH Kalasaudha, Hanumanthanagara. It was a musical tribute to the beloved Kannada poets (who visited Vidyarthi Bhavan), and their popular poems were sung on stage in a celebration of the richness of the Kannada literary culture.

“Project 560 motivated me to explore the found space in all possible manner and allowed me to rediscover my vision towards space with reference to performance,” shares Mangala.

Poet Prathibha Nandakumar, received a grant for ‘one lessu, one plussu’— a poetry performance at the Coffee House, Coffee Board and there was also a photo exhibition of vintage photos connected to the Coffee Board and an installation of huge coffee beans by artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy at the site of this old Bangalore coffee shop. Along with a team of other artistes, Prathibha presented an engaging performance of poems, that completely held everyone’s attention, at the Coffee House.

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