Taking Centre Stage
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As the capital's thriving cultural hub Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra turns 60, director Shobha Deepak Singh talks about growing up with the centre and evolving its productions to suit the changing times.
The ceiling reverberated with the incessant thumping of multiple pairs of feet tied with ghungroos, which stomped in unison upstairs. Sitting on a chair in the room, visibly unmoved by the noise, is a 69-year-old woman, busy reciting some lines with a distant look in her eyes. "Through the darkness of a cave, the source of light is revealed," she reads from a handbook called Ram. As one of Capital's most active cultural institutes, Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK), turns 60 this month, its director Shobha Deepak Singh's first instinct is to go back to its landmark production, the one she grew up with — SBKK's Ramlila, now simply called Ram.
"I was very ill and my mother brought me here for occupational therapy in 1969. The centre was only doing Ramlila at that time and my first-ever job here was to catalogue all the costumes," she says of Ram, a production that coincides with Dussehra every year. From cataloguing in the early '70s, Singh eventually promoted herself to costume designing and down the years, some of her successful experiments have become the core of the institute.
Her office is like a gallery-in-the-making, with old photographs of the institute — right from the day she started here, which was about 40 years ago. The institute's inception goes back to 1947, even though it was formally founded in 1952 by Singh's mother, Sumitra Charat Ram. Ask her about the 60 years' celebrations and she says with a laugh, "I didn't even realise it until July, and we still don't have any concrete plans. But since SBKK started with a music concert, I'm thinking of doing the same thing." Singh's recollection of the first performance here is one when some musicians, often found in her parents' house, gathered for an all-night concert after Independence to celebrate "freedom from bonded music".
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