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Three years ago, Sanjoy K Roy and his team lit a fire in Chicago with an art festival in which his company, Teamwork Productions of New Delhi, brought organizations in the city of Chicago together such as the Harris Theater, Millenium Park, the Mayor’s office, and others. One of Teamwork’s efforts is an exhibition titled The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989, which runs until June 9 at The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago. Today, Eye on India has become one of Chicago’s popular annual festivals.
Roy’s company is about to spark another such effort here in the Bay Area to foster a greater understanding of south Asian culture through performances, dialogue and discussion. Over the years, Teamwork’s larger goal has been the catalyzing of art and ideas between India and various geographies. “We wanted to create a platform of exchange with North America,” Roy says. “There’s not enough of that happening.”
An entertainment company, with roots in the performing arts, social action, and the corporate world, Teamwork masterminds 23 annual festivals across 13 countries in 21 cities. One of the company’s massive and colorful projects is the literature festival that takes place every January in the historical city of Jaipur. Roy says that when Teamwork begins a festival in a city, it intends to spawn an annual show in its wake. Still, the first show is always a trial of sorts, a version “zero,” he says.
Teamwork also tries to nurture new talent across arts forms and cultural barriers. The thrust of these festivals, according to Roy, is the fostering of an exchange in talent and ideas. “Good, interesting contemporary work does not always find its way into the United States,” he says. In general, sponsors tend to bring in the established and rising stars in the specific classical arts and other genres. But the talented experimenters, those who straddle the classical and the contemporary, tend to escape the radar. That’s where Roy’s company adds value. Teamwork attempts to spot talent both in India and abroad.
One of its efforts was to showcase a classical dance ensemble, based near Bangalore, run by gurus Surupa en and Bijayini Satpathy. “The Nrityagram Dance Company of Bangalore, while rooted in the classical tradition, continues to innovate within that style,” Roy says. He quotes the example of another group that employs rock elements to the Hindustani vocal and instrumental tradition and how that kind of work may not find its way into the United States through normal channels.
Teamwork also explores innovative and exciting work from America that could find appeal in India. “We were able to take Chicago Children’s Choir, and earlier this year we took 44 of them to India on tour and presented them at Jaipur Literature Festival one evening.” Roy is always looking for art from the Indian diaspora that is compelling. In one such effort, New York-based bharatanatyam exponent Preeti Vasudevan’s work was chosen for presentation.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Eye on India will present a literary panel called Words on Water featuring novelist Saikat Majumdar, a professor of English at Stanford, Sonia Faleiro, journalist and author of Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars, and Vikram Chandra, author of Sacred Games and senior lecturer of creative writing at the UC Berkeley.
It will also present musical maestro Shubha Mudgal live in concert at the India Community Centre in Milpitas. Shubha Mudgal was trained by eminent scholar-musician-composer Pandit Ramashreya Jha Ramrang; she also received guidance from Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya and Pandit Vasant Thakar. She later learnt stylistic techniques from well-known maestros Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki and Pandit Kumar Gandharva and Naina Devi.
Eye on India’s finale will be a dialogue on June 9 with the iconic Shabana Azmi at Stanford. A highly acclaimed actress, ShabanaAzmi has acted in more than 140 Hindi films and won several international films. She has won the National Award for Best Actress five times, three of those in a row. While the focus at Stanford will be on Hundred Years of Indian Cinema, Azmi’s presence here is meaningful at a time when India has been ravaged by crime against women. Her intellectual might and eloquence during her interactions with the media following the New Delhi gang rape incident and her impassioned speeches on women’s rights have made her one of the most respected activists in India.
Saturday, June 1. Three Sessions from 2-3:30 p.m., 4-5:30 p.m., and 6-7:30 p.m. A talk by Daniel Herwitz. Literary panel featuring Saikat Majumdar, Sonia Faleiro and Vikram Chandra Cubberley Hall, School of Education, 485 Lasuen Mall, Stanford University.
Friday, June 7. 8-10 p.m. Vocal recital by Shubha Mudgal. India Community Center, 525 Los Coches, Milpitas. 35 $45 and $55.
Sunday, June 9. 5-7 p.m. A conversation with Shabana Azmi. Dinkelspiel Auditorium, 471 Lagunita Drive, Stanford. 35 $45 and $55.
For more information and tickets, visit:http://eyeonindia.com/san_francisco.php.