My trip to Lahore
- Mayuri Upadhya, Bangalore
Collages: Madhuri Upadhya
e-mail: nritarutya@gmail.com

December 27, 2008

Performances can take place on a stage, in a subway, or even at someone's house but the hottest ticket for artistes is when they get invited to international festivals. Festivals I would say are living proof of how artistry and imagination can transform a familiar locale (in this case Kaddafi stadium campus) into magical dreamland and audience into children again.

One final call, inviting us... "All set from our end. Insha'Allah! See you soon in Pakistan," set the dance floor for my Indian contemporary dance company, Nritarutya, in THE WORLD PERFORMING ARTS FESTIVAL 2008, LAHORE. A festival celebrating different experimental and innovative work, gaining more exposure by the year (they turned 25 this year).The festival juxtaposed glittering names of world music, dance, puppetry, theatre, films etc.

Even before our visas were issued, my team was already getting keyed up about what Pakistan would have in store! Festival publicity assured its visitors lots of things to keep them busy. Believe me, they didn't disappoint. It was electrifying-the mood, music and dance. I will sum it up as incredible, incredible and incredible. A great show from my team added to the pride and euphoria I was experiencing. We presented a wonderful blend of multimedia and Indian mythology in contemporary dance - and even before we realized it was all over! The execution of every presentation by my dancers was amazing - it was smooth, fast, slick and near perfect. Following which I announced, "My team and I come from South of India, a city called Bangalore and what Nritarutya showcased, is an example of innovations, ongoing in dance, in my country, India."

For a few minutes from then...I heard thundering applause doubled with a standing ovation from the receptive gathering. Wow! I smiled to my realization, dance has the power to transcend all borders and touch hearts of the audience. "The fire and ice relation between India - Pakistan didn't matter?"

Then came the flashing bulbs, microphones thrust at my excited yet bewildered face, media interviews ....
Madam, is dance form ke baare mein batayiye? (Please tell us about this dance form)
Hindustan Ke baare mein kuch batayien? (Tell us something about India)
Humara shehar kaisa lagaa? (How do you like our city?)
Hindustan mein kya hain jo Pakistan mein nahein? (What does India have that Pakistan does not have?)
Oops! Awkward moment!! The interviewer stopped short and realized what he had just asked and retracted immediately - CUT! My answer to that last question would have definitely been - Freedom!!!

Freedom in Pakistan, at this time of social-political turmoil that it is in, has a totally different meaning! People seemed to be living on the edge of fear almost as if they anticipated the next terrorist attack to take place any minute that will take the next few innocent unsuspecting lives. We were told by the organizers that there may be suicide bombers lurking around and asked us to exhibit caution before venturing out alone. They made sure that we always had an escort whenever we wanted to go out of the festival campus. In fact, the festival campus too was not spared...two bomb blasts occurred in the festival campus just a day after we had left Pakistan. (The festival resumed by the city's popular demand after few days). Wars begin where you will, but not end where you please... Terror-causing discrepancy in nation and common man's life, is not only immoral, illegitimate but beyond reason.

The irony of the situation - In spite of all the above said terror activities, the city dares, it's abuzz till 1.30am and our so called IT capital of India, Bangalore, with all its spirit, shuts down by 11.30pm? Got a peek into the bold spirit of Pakistanis, fighting all odds and hoping with all their lives?

This festival was a witness to human spirit and its survival...more so, of hope. Ask if you may-Does "Art" have a chance above all the socio-political-militant unions? Can it restore "happiness" into blank smiling faces in different parts of the world? To this I call to mind, legendary Anna Pavlova, who one day asked a crowd of admirers what her dancing did to them. Promptly she was told, "Madam, you have made us happy by enabling us to forget the sadness of life for one hour."

The power of art is not for demonstration but realization. It can cross all frontiers and link nation with nation. And throughout history we have never been so painfully in need of a "linking up" as today. Art not only elevates the spirit but also educates and moralizes. Especially, contemporary art attempting to relate to social change and modernization. At the festival, I didn't have to use scrupulous methods to prove a point...I kept the honor of my country, held my head high and my dance made this possible.



Mayuri Upadhya is the artistic director of Nritarutya, Bangalore
www.nritarutya.com