By Chetan Sharma:
Theater, music, art, dance, literature & fashion – that is how you spell Delhi. The map marks it as the national capital, but its people make it the epicenter of the cultural wave that has long been sweeping the world off its feet. A city peppered with theaters, auditoriums, stadiums and people who’ve made these their homes & temples. No ethnicity of its own, yet the word “dilli waale” bloats up our chests, no customs & traditions of its own yet not a single chance of celebration is missed, no culture of its own yet the most cultured city that there is in India.
Delhites inherit artistic tastes from their diverse & rich history. It’s almost like taste, appreciation and interest for such activities runs in their blood. The monuments and forts prove to be the picture perfect stage for art presenters, unlike any other city. On the one hand you have jam-packed audience in international level events and on the other, you have a crowd of 10-15 people watching a random artist perform in the lawns of Purana Quila. I believe that the reason Delhi can exude a claim about being the most heterogeneous, enriched & elaborate in terms of culture is due to the fact that it’s a perfect blend of all the flavors that India has to offer. Its real beauty lies in this gauche mixture itself. It has a little of everything and hence a lot of it all.
It’s a city where the chanting of carnatic music is sometimes interrupted by sounds from concerts of Enrique & David Guetta, and a city which anchors the notorious “Ghanta Awards” simultaneously with the National Awards. We have the International Book Fare, Trade Fare, Auto Expo, Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week, Aahaar- The International Food Festival, India International Art Fair, the all so crazy Comic Con, more than 200 art galleries, 75 auditoriums, 10 world class stadiums and an audience that frequents these events in humongous numbers in our cultural arsenal. This, along with innumerous other inter-state & international food, theatre, sports, music and dance festivals and competitions has become routine features of Delhi’s Cultural Calendar. There is after all a reason why Delhi is the 46th most visited city in the world & 2nd in India, both ahead of Mumbai, its arch rival.
The city is attracting more and more organizers, artists and sponsors by becoming more and more audacious. Mumbai, being significantly dominated by Bollywood, has lost its roots. Whereas, Delhi has started to revamp itself and is no more afraid to experiment. You’ll find street artists boldly performing Nukkads, a fashion show on the green carpet of grass or maybe a rock concert in front of some serene monument. There are even many humble but new theater groups and dance or music academies dotting the city’s latitudes & longitudes daily. The “anything is possible here” image of Delhi that has surfaced over the last 2 decades has proved to be the honey for cultural bees. The literally thunderous applause, heartwarming appreciations & pocket filling stipend that this city offers is unlike anywhere in the country (trust me on that for I have performed all across). It almost feels like the city has been blown in a new life, a new verve to be the cultural Mecca of India and moreover, producer of avant grade art and artists.
We have seen the mountains like National School of Drama, Sahitya Kala Parishad, India International Center, Indian Habitat Cente & Delhi Haat soar in the cultural landscape of the city over the past few years. But the specialty of Delhi’s art has become the individual experience that it emanates. Unlike the older times when cultural performance used to be only for the eyes of the elite and the aged, we now have something for all. Embassies and NGOs have been active with the children, both street and stage theater of DU is the best in the country at the University level and women centric presentations have become a common feature of the city. Imagine yourself, sitting amidst the fragranced air of The Garden of Five Senses listening to soft Sufi music, or enjoying one of the 100 shades of theater being daily showcased or probably completely lost in any of the dance or music genres from the highly diversified menu available. That is what Delhi has become- everything for everyone.
It’s not rare to witness mind boggling events such as the 2012 3D projection on India Gate organized by Midas Next and Clean India Initiative. Almost daily, you’ll find a crowd in some or the other embassy on Shantipath eagerly witnessing the distant country’s cultures right in front of them. Social issue centric and masala performances are equally being belted out all across the city and Delhi is day by day engraving itself on the world cultural globe as a prima. You can’t help but notice its emergence as popular culture in itself. The shooting of countless movies like Rang De Basanti, Delhi 6 & Band Baja Baaraat in the backdrop of Delhi, the observation that more and more international artists are preferring Delhi over Mumbai for their shows, the impact that ‘Dilli Ka Style’ is leaving on all forms of art and media, and the ever-increasing footfall are all proofs of this.
Though the city has still a long way to go as far as the openness of its mindset regarding freedom or art and artist goes, Delhi has still managed to establish itself as the cultural capital of the nation. Culture and art complete the city’s life & lifestyles, and it is the benefit of being the confluence of all of nation and world’s people and hence their cultures. Spreading smiles and retrieving roots through culture has become the heartbeat of the heart of the nation, instilling in it, a new life & zing!