Friday, 21 September 2012

Arty farty it's all a party!

I don't even know what I was thinking with this blogpost title.

I went to Mandi House today with H and M, two of the very few people in my batch who give a crap about culturally refining themselves. I am such an arty farty elitist bastard

Mandi House is da bomb. Let me elaborate on that since people besides me have stopped using 'da bomb' in sentences since the 70s.

It isn't really a House so much as it is a section of the city. It is the art hub of Delhi. Well, I haven't explored Delhi enough to call it the art hub, but it definitely felt like it. A lot of auditoriums line up the streets, promising all kinds of theatrical productions, posters and billboards of arty events everywhere, men with funny earrings and accents, some silly hipsters, and quaint cafes scattered about.

Wait, I know what you're thinking, oh god Shifani is turning into a pretentious art fag.

WELL I still hate those hipster glasses and I'm not wearing a beret, so YOU'RE WRONG, OKAY?

Sure the place, like anything to do with art, is bound to have its share of annoying pretentious pseudo-intellectuals, but overall - on the contrary - it seemed really, really nice. Mostly because it's a place that celebrates unique Indian art, in distinctly Indian style, form and languages, and it's not trying hard to be anything else than that. It's full of variety, and I found it so stimulating how as you stood at the top of the main street, you had your choice of stories to choose from - each auditorium promised a different one, in the form of artists and lights and drama.

Something else that was stimulating was the LASSI. Do they have lassi in Colombo? I don't know, maybe they do, by another name, and I've just been a noob. It's basically just yoghurt, water and sugar, whipped to a thick delicious cream. I held my glass and said to it lovingly, you make life worthwhile, lassi, while H and M advised me to stop talking to inanimate objects (it's only gotten worse since the scandalous chair incident).

We went to the cafe attached to one of the auditoriums -- and for 50 Sri Lankan rupees, I got a very tall glass of awesome lassi. For about 80 Sri Lankan bucks each, we got a whole plate of spring rolls, and a giant bowl of chillied potatoes. Things taste so much better when they're not ripping up a hole in your wallet. We then went to the National School of Drama in the evening, stood in queue and watched the people lying on the green lawn and the dragonflies like helicopters filling the summer air, before sitting down for a satirical play by Vijay Tendulkar. The ticket was 100 SL rupees. Next week I'll get to watch a classical Hindustani dance performance by renowned artists, for free.

The point of my babbling about le adventures at Mandi House is that I want to see this shit in Sri Lanka. I don't mean to sound unpatriotic but really, what does Colombo have in terms of drama and art? We have Lionel Wendt, the Harold Pieris Gallery above, Park Street Mews, the National Art Gallery, Punchi Theater, and a few school auditoriums. People who go to these places are very, very rarely the common masses. They're usually an exclusive crowd of the privileged, the upper and upper middle class, the English speakers. We are still too busy glorifying Shakespeare in our heads and acting out his 16th century plays-for-England, to come up with any solid dramatic literature ourselves. Art and drama in Colombo, if you ask me, is selfishly boxed up for a hi-fi minority - art has become, like in the Victorian era of England, a thing associated with only a small posh class. Some, like the lovely artists on the pavement of the Viharamahadevi stretch, create art too, but because they are not part of this special class they must sell their stuff at 1/100th the price of some awful crap that's being sold inside a Gallery.

What is the art and theatre scene like outside Colombo? Is there one?

But anyway, yes. I know, as a Sri Lankan, I'm supposed to be like, 'OMG INDIA SUX SO BAD!1111' (where does the patriotic animosity stem from anyway? cricket?) but we can sure learn a lot from the art scene here. I want to see a Colombo that has theatres and exhibitions and plays overcrowded with The Average Somapalas and Somalathas! -just because it's an important thing to propagate cultural refinement and intellectual evolution in our masses, and not just that - but to use art as a tool to churn out issues important to our national society. Where we don't cut out whole classes of people from the chance of flourishing at art. Where the tickets don't cost a fortune, and the food costs even less. Where funding is arranged to give students everywhere a chance at enjoying theatre and art, for free, just because that stuff is that important. Where Sinhala and Tamil plays are just as numerous and popular, if not more, than the English ones. And we need to put lassi in all the shops goddammit.

8 comments:

  1. Oh you blady cow. OF COURSE WE HAVE LASSI HERE! -_- Go to pretty much any indian restaurant and it's on the menu! I'll treat you to one when you get back! I miss you, get your butt back on fb and I hate you for changing to this other site cuz it makes following your posts complicated!
    - It's le Grand Conjuration BEE TEE DUBS :P

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  2. Wow. I can't believe you've never had lassi. But then, I can't believe the rest of this post either.

    You first ask what does Colombo have in terms of art and drama, and then go on to name no less than 5 places that actively promote the same. The drama and art scene in Colombo is quite active, though according to you activity is measure by the 'common masses'. What exactly are the 'common masses'? Are you part of the common mass, for instance?

    "People who go to these places are very, very rarely the common masses. They're usually an exclusive crowd of the privileged, the upper and upper middle class, the English speakers. [..]Art and drama in Colombo, if you ask me, is selfishly boxed up for a hi-fi minority - art has become, like in the Victorian era of England, a thing associated with only a small posh class. Some, like the lovely artists on the pavement of the Viharamahadevi stretch, create art too, but because they are not part of this special class they must sell their stuff at 1/100th the price of some awful crap that's being sold inside a Gallery."

    No, art, drama and literature are not 'selfishly boxed up', hidden away from the 'masses' of starving art lovers who are not 'hi-fi' enough to go to these exhibits. They are not restricted to the English speaking masses. What you are observing is the fact that only a few people happen to be interested in that. That isn't a reflection of the 'class' or the sophistication of Sri Lankans. Also, the Viharamahadevi park is a perfect example of art being open to anyone who walks or drives past one of the most central parts of Colombo city. How much more accessible do you want it to be? As for their prices, well, if you want the common 'unsophisticated' and 'un-elite' crowd to view and purchase them, surely you can't also be advocating they sell at a higher price do you? Your argument makes absolutely no sense.

    "I want to see a Colombo that has theatres and exhibitions and plays overcrowded with The Average Somapalas and Somalathas! -just because it's an important thing to propagate cultural refinement and intellectual evolution in our masses, and not just that - but to use art as a tool to churn out issues important to our national society. Where we don't cut out whole classes of people from the chance of flourishing at art. "

    I can't believe (again) you're using INDIA of all places to critique the lack of class integration and exposure. As for 'average Somapalas and Somalathas', it just once again speaks to your absolute ignorance on any form of social issues in Sri Lanka. It just enrages me that you think this way, and no doubt spread the same simplistic and myopic views of Sri Lanka to your Indian friends there.

    No Shifani, you don't have to think "OMG INDIA SUX SO BAD!111" just because you are Sri Lankan, and no your post questioning the existence of drama and art in Colombo isn't unpatriotic. It's just ignorant. For someone who I assume has lived here most of your life, it's inexcusable. Sri Lanka has more than it's fair share of social issues, but when you trivialize them like this you are not helping your cause. Get your facts straight, you're not a giddy teenager who happens to have a blog. You're a mature adult; think before you write.

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    1. Wow what crawled up your butt and made you so grumpy this morning? This is a personal blog for a reason - it's based on my personal experiences and views. I'm not dissing Colombo's art and theatre, I've been an enthusiast and some of it has been very well done (the Kala Pola has the right idea), but the scene as a whole is not as good as it could be.

      I'm a part of the crowd that goes to those places in Colombo I mentioned, and I personally feel these places don't seem open to the average joe, save for the occasional art exhibition. If like you say 'only a few people happen to be interested in that', it is up to us to change that and put things in theatres and art events that not only a few people will be interested in, making it all inclusive.

      I mentioned Viharamahadevi as an *exception* and my point about the pricing was not the pricing itself, but the fact that those artists are not appreciated as much or respected on the same level as the ones glorified in the galleries.

      I don't know about India as a whole, but Delhi IS extremely integrated when it comes to its art scene, I have no doubt about that. I love Sri Lanka, and right now I'm sure it is working out its social issues in other productive ways - I've seen an admirable rise in NGO work and social media awareness lately - but art-wise, I think we have a long way to go and we will definitely get there in time. Till then, criticism is healthy for improvement.

      So I do think before I write, uncle Gehan, thank you very much. It's not my concern if those who read what I write don't agree with it.

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  3. i'm sure the "Average Somapalas and Somalathas" appreciate your concern for their cultural refinement and intellectual evolution, but Colombo _does_ have a very vibrant sinhala theatre culture that the very sompalas and somalathas attend. in large numbers too, mind you. these same plays do the rounds in places like kandy and galle, usually to full houses. there is also a very heavy presence of sinhala theatre in the local universities.

    if you are unaware of this, it's probably because _you_ haven't stepped out of the selfishly boxed up for a hi-fi minority small posh class that you speak of. next time you're in town, try to catch a sinhala play on at the wendt. you'll be surprised.

    i mention sinhala plays only because i don't speak tamil and therefore don't know enough about it to say anything.

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    1. Well thank you very much for letting me know! My blog is obviously subject to my personal experiences and in my experience I have very rarely heard by word of mouth or in the media, of Sinhala or Tamil productions (out of 5 popular ones I'd hear of in a month, maybe 1 will be in Sinhala). But perhaps they are popularized via Sinhala newspapers or street posters or some other medium I'm not familiar with! I have heard of the productions in Kandy and Galle, that's why I asked about the scene outside Colombo, out of genuine curiousity. Will be sure to look into it more when I'm back. :)

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  4. "oh god Shifani is turning into a pretentious art fag." - I think you meant Himal there. xD

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    1. :D I can actually imagine him saying this.

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