METRO PLUS

A cultural hub

Unique blendThe people of Vizag city has always welcomed art and culture with open arms. A Kathak ballet in progress, (Top) Parveen Sultana during a concert and M.S. Subbulakshmi being honouredPhotos: C.V. Subrahmanyam and special arrangement

Unique blendThe people of Vizag city has always welcomed art and culture with open arms. A Kathak ballet in progress, (Top) Parveen Sultana during a concert and M.S. Subbulakshmi being honouredPhotos: C.V. Subrahmanyam and special arrangement  

Heritage The city has become more diverse and more culturally aware over the last couple of decades

The span of a few decades in the chronicles of a metro in the making is by no means a measure of its cultural evolution. Still, it is surely a pointer to evolving trends.

Visakhapatnam is a relatively inclusive place. Vizagites accept the changes around the world and accordingly adjust the way they think. Culture has a holistic dynamic, and Vizag, culturally attuned in most ways, is often called the cultural capital of Andhra.

That does not mean just some national awards ceremonies, a bit of foreign theatre, a few paintings by world-renowned artists and competing for the honour of hosting national and international events. A real capital of culture is centuries in the making. Culture is not just performing arts; it crafts requirements and desires that did not exist before. It produces magically liveable places and auditoria and a plethora of state-of-the-art facilities. Visakhapatnam is no exception on this count. Places that were just a barren landscape a quarter of a century ago are now aglow with clubs, cottages, and boutiques that draw a steady stream of visitors.

The city has become more mixed and more culturally aware; the restrictions of social behaviour have slackened. People have turned more hedonistic and life has become more about living in the moment than about being thrifty for a rainy day.

That is not to say that Visakhaptnam has severed its traditional moorings. Notwithstanding the exterior changes in lifestyles, the city’s ties to classical arts remain intact. Vizagites have a profound admiration for classical music and dance, which finds a glowing expression in ever-increasing patronage for festivals of classical music and dance and historic dramas. In the last 25 years, even people who are not well versed in Carnatic music have begun to frequent concerts and learn more about it. A large number of youngsters, too, show keen interest in this art form.

The auditoriums are fancier and air-conditioned now, but the audiences have always been committed in this city. Time was that audiences sat on the floor during music and dance performances at Vivekananda Hall, Town Hall and The Hindu Reading Room. Even Viswakavi Rabindranath Tagore took part in a meeting at the Town Hall and received warm felicitations. Though it was rustic by today’s standards, it was classic in that the audiences were highly informed about whatever was being presented on the stage.

Multilingual activities by the Bengali Association, Tamil Kalai Mandram, Utkal Samskrutika Samaj, Kerala Kala Samiti, and Kannada, Maharashtra, Gujarati and other vernacular associations add a trans-regional sheen to the city’s cultural aura. The city houses around 1,500 cultural associations, most of which conduct their programmes with religious regularity.

In a way, the city of destiny in the last few decades has grown in its true distinction as a place traditional in thought and modern in outlook.



VELCHETI SUBRAHMANYAM

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