CORONAVIRUS is occupying all air and press waves and dominating most conversations. A leading daily carried pictures of deserted streets and cinemas. Many events have been cancelled. All travel plans and flight bookings have had to be changed. Government rulings have disappointed and upset many lives.
We at Poor Box Productions, who have been staging The Vagina Monologues for the last 18 years in various theatres all over the city, mostly The Canvas Laugh Factory at The Palladium in Lower Parel and sporadically in other Indian cities, couldn’t believe our eyes and ears when BookMyShow reported ‘Houseful’ on Women’s Day, March 8, at the Royal Opera House as part of their Great Indian Theatre Festival. Suddenly, we were best friends with all and sundry demanding seats for March 8. It gave us vicarious pleasure reporting to the callers that we actors had no jurisdiction over the box office.
For the first time, every single seat was sold out, even in the two upper balconies which are rarely favoured. Even ten minutes before the last bell our phones didn’t stop vibrating and were jangling with calls, demands, and requests from many claiming to have personal links with the actors!
Producer-Director-Actor Mahabanoo Modi Kotwal issued last-minute instructions that we were not to ignore - those in the Gods, and to lift our eyes and throw our voices almost 200ft high!
What a kick it gave all the actors; the youngest amongst us, Dilnaz Irani and Swati Das, super-excelled, leaving fellow actors Mahabanoo and me gobsmacked!
We couldn’t discern a familiar face amongst the audience.
Constructed in 1909, the baroque-style Opera House, which opened in 1912, is India’s only surviving opera house and was resurrected in 2016, after its closure in 1993 when home videos began to get popular. Cinema houses in Mumbai started to register losses, and with the growing popularity of cable television, they began to close down.
Restoration work on the edifice started in 2008 and was completed in 2016. Owners Maharaja Jyotendrasinjhi Jadeja and Maharani Kumud Kumari Jadeja of Gondal, Gujarat, received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation. People come from all over to experience the splendid work of Abha Narain Lambah, who specialises in architectural conservation.
Mahabanoo shared some responses: “Some ladies from Toronto and New York came backstage and became so emotional that they rang my cousin in Toronto to say that they were enthralled by the show, and to tell us that they said so”.
My friend Bina Ellias, who brings out the most stunning Gallerie Quarterly on Art wrote: “...Watched you and your team’s amazing performance last evening…and it was a vibrant responsive audience. We were sitting below, and the auditorium was full. After 18 years of shows, to still have such huge crowds is amazing. Besides veterans like Mahabanoo and you who are so much at ease with your Thespian skills, the two youngsters were excellent too!”
What a night and what a way to celebrate Women’s Day!
Art you can wear
The launch of Vaishali’s flagship store in the Kala Ghoda precinct was a complete surprise – what unusual creativity…best described in her own words: “Vaishali S is a brand committed to creating wearable art forms out of handwoven textiles. The brand has been committed to handloom weavers and worked with over 900 weavers and explored 14 different techniques of weaving from various Indian States…one such weave is the Khunn weave in Karnataka. Having stumbled upon this colourful weave worn by local women, Vaishali struggled to find the handwoven weave and decided to adopt the remaining 40 looms to support families and promote the weavers by providing them a continuous livelihood.”
The brand has forayed into home decor and is continuing to reinvent the use of handwoven textiles and techniques to create unique and contemporary range of products.
Driven by demolition
What an unusual week of visits to art galleries: At the Nine Fish gallery in Lalbaug, Anjana Mehra’s The Nail House introduced a completely new aspect of art sensitivity: “My house was being illegally demolished by a builder. All other residents abandoned the premises overnight. Just my son and I were left…my husband was away in Pune as a visiting professor and only came on weekends. While we continued to live through the demolition, dust, debris, no staircase, or surviving in my home, goondas etc, I lived to tell the tale through documentation of my experience – of surviving in my home. While they demolished all around,
I filmed, took still photographs – transformed my fear and anger and helplessness by being creative!”
These pictures are all taken by Anjana…some are painted upon but none photoshopped. It is hard work - pictures taken for five continuous years – of exciting things that happened on their pavements. Anjana celebrates this solo show by sharing her first-hand experiences and interpretations of life. One comes away feeling every emotion that a demolition drive evokes in those that have to endure it. In this case, the two-storied mansion.
Another stunning visual experience was Clay Off The Wall at the Gallery Art and Soul, curated by sculptor Shayonti Salvi and Adil Writer of the Mandala Pottery Dana from Auroville. All about tableware and murals. A total of 50 artists and a host of ceramic and food-based activities at the gallery.
MENTAL HEALTH AND DEPRESSION have been claiming much media space in recent months. A very committed Prakriti Poddar organised a session at the Indian Merchants’ Chamber. Interesting intelligent awareness is being created and the newly furbished Messina Wellness Centre was the centre of attention.