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Agent of change Dr. Karan Singh
Agent of change Dr. Karan Singh

ICCR is all geared up to become Delhi's cultural hub again

After a gap, this past week, the ICCR — Indian Council for Cultural Relations — at Azad Bhavan was abuzz with activity; a new gallery inaugurated with remarkable Mithila paintings by Bhavana Dayal, a captivating classical ghazal concert by Fareed Khan of the Kirana gharana at the newly refurbished auditorium and a swanky cafeteria, though it still requires final touches. Thin attendance of art and music admirers couldn't mar the spirit of the place, which just a few months ago was almost in a state of neglect.

Here, it is important to recall that ICCR, founded in 1950, was the brainchild of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. The motive was to promote international culture ties through the exchange of creative and artistic activities. During the regime of artistically-driven leaders like Nehru, followed by Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv Gandhi, ICCR saw several cultural programmes happening. But after Rajiv's assassination, the artistic activities hit a roadblock. For the last seven to eight years, while its events have been staged at other Delhi auditoriums, ICCR's Azad Bhavan has been a largely forgotten venue, and the gallery never existed.

Now, the building has warmed up to artistic and cultural activities. Hence, Azad Bhawan seems to be turning into a cultural hub in the middle of Delhi, well connected by the Delhi Metro.

Cultural Exchange

Karan Singh, ICCR president, lists the reasons for the healthy development. “Earlier, the ICCR presidents used to be the ex-officio of the Vice Presidents on deputation. A few of them didn't even have their offices at Azad Bhavan. Till three months ago the Azad Bhavan auditorium was like a go-down. Now, with our annual budget, it is refurbished with modern faculties to accommodate almost 400 people. Also, for a constant cultural exchange within and outside India, we are opening offices at Patna, Bhopal, Srinagar, Panaji, Kuala Lumpur and Dhaka. We have a major demand for yoga and Bharatanatyam programmes from all over the world.” Adds Virender Gupta, DG, ICCR, “After Uphaar tragedy we had closed the auditorium to meet the new fire safety norms. Our new gallery adjacent to the auditorium can accommodate 35 paintings. The artists chosen to display their works here would also be sent abroad. We are extending our library for public use. The cafeteria with dispensing machines for soft drinks in summers would be open to all. The idea is to provide a perfect venue to the lovers of art/music/theatre for free.”

Every Friday, the gallery, under the Horizon Series, will show the works of a new artist and an artiste will perform at the hall. The artist would be chosen through the advisory committee that includes names like Shanta Sarabjit Singh, Kiran Seth, Ashok Chakradhar and the like. Gupta assures, “To avoid malpractices, we would work at zero tolerance level towards lobbying.”

Maithili Paintings by Bhavna Dayal

Bhavna's works have the experience of 23 years behind them. They remain true to original style with long slanted eyes on a tiny, innocent face, bright colours, tribal motif of leaf and trees, peacocks and fish representing their proximity to nature. The original Mithila art is largely about Radha-Krishna lore but Bhavna has contemporised it with modern-day thoughts and dilemmas. For instance, “The Game” reflects Draupadi's anguish on losing herself to a ‘game' and she questions its genesis.

The show concludes on January 17.

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

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