Canada’s cultural landscape allows Canadians to partake in the grandeur of South Asian
culture. Experience the decadence from the hugely anticipated IIFA awards, to artistic exhibitions at the
Ontario Museum (ROM) and Art
Gallery of Ontario (AGO), and theatrical productions from Montreal to
Thousands of mini paisleys embroidered in thick gold thread are positioned diagonally across the entire royal garment, fashioned from ruby red, silk brocade. The high collar, encrusted with once bright, yellow gold embellishments amongst pieces of crystal and thread, have now blackened to brass.
Earlier this year, AGO introduced the public to “Maharaja: The Splendour of India’s Royal Courts” exhibition. To provide Canadians with an insight to the opulent lifestyle and culture of the royal courts, the AGO displayed over 200 paintings, jewels, portraits, weapons, clothing, furniture, decorative arts, and other personal belongings of the Maharajas of India from the 18th to mid-20th century.
For those who were lucky enough to explore the exhibition, it may have triggered a love affair with South Asian culture; one that yearns for a cultural experience far beyond the extravagantly orchestrated dance numbers found in Bollywood films.
Speaking of Bollywood – the stunning stages have been created and the venues are decorated. The outrageously intricate dance routines have been perfected, and the costumes fitted. The luxurious green carpet has been rolled out and the star-studded line-up has arrived. The Indian film industry has transformed Torontonians into honourary members of the Indian culture.
If you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks then you may not have noticed that the city is abuzz with excitement about the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards. IIFA is in its 12th year of celebrating and spreading the best of Indian cinema, and have chosen Toronto as this year’s host city.
Torontonians are proud to be the first North American city chosen to host the event. With an Indian population of 550,000 in the Greater Toronto Area, Toronto is the ideal place to celebrate the love of Indian film culture, not to mention the finest reward for committed fans that will have numerous opportunities to see their Bollywood idols up close. Some of the most anticipated arrivals are Shah Rukh Khan (more recently known as King Khan), Hrithik Roshan, Dharmendra, Hema Malini, Priyanka Chopra and Bipasha Basu, to name a few.
Though the focus of the IIFAs tends to be the IIFA awards, which will be held Saturday June 25 at the Rogers Centre, IIFA brings a whole weekend worth of events for fans to relish in: The Videocon d2h IIFA Weekend, the IIFA Film Festival, IIFA Music Workshop and the RK Retrospective. Festivities begin on Thursday, June 23 and run until Saturday, June 25.
The ROM is joining in on the Bollywood action with two special exhibitions: Bollywood Cinema Showcards: Indian Film Art from the 1950s to the 1980s which runs until October 2, 2011 and Embellished Reality: Indian Painted Photographswhich will run until March 2012.
The Embellished Reality exhibition provides patrons with 60 works from the 1860s to the 2000s that have never before been displayed. The Bollywood Cinema Showcard exhibition shows approximately 125 vintage Bollywood cinema advertisements that feature celebrities from Indian film history.
Whether your interest lies with the historic battles, the political landscape, the religious fervour, or the artistic endeavours of Indian culture, Canadians can experience the various histories and cultures found within India and the South Asian Diasporas through theatre, dance, film, shows, and literature without leaving our borders.
“An artist must push the boundaries, worry authorities, question existing notions of morality, question what is handed down to them by the status-quo, media enterprise and the government, and bring to the fore the voiceless, raise the voice that needs to be raised, and do so with artistic beauty and imagination,” says Rahul Varma, Artistic Director of Teesri Duniya Theatre, as he describes the passion behind his works.
Teesri Duniya Theatre, located in Montreal, strives to produce works that engage the Canadian audience through plays developed by, with, and for the multicultural community. Their productions have been translated into, and from English, French, and other minority languages found within Canada. With the motto “Change the world, one play at a time” etched onto the Teesri Duniyia’s website, we can be assured of a performance that will not only provide entertainment, but also leave an everlasting impression.
For a look at the lighter side of South Asian culture, perhaps one more in line with Bollywood’s interpretations, Luminato was a definite “to-do” destination this June where you could discover one of the most epic love stories or take part in an interactive installation that celebrates an Indian film pioneer.
As Sir Edwin Arnold so poetically put it, the Taj Mahal is “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.”
Artistic director Lata Pada, award-winning playwright John Murrell, and director Tom Diamond come together to explore power, passion, love and loss in the Luminato commissioned Taj; a dance-theatre production that tells the historic tale of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, which lead to the creation of the Taj Mahal. The production stars Canadian actress Lisa Ray, Bollywood’s Kabir Bedi, and Lata Pada’s Sampradaya Dance Company.
As Clint Eastwood is to Hollywood, Raj Kapoor is to Indian cinema. Kapoor has been an iconic actor, director, and producer since the 1950s and ‘60s, and is known for his interaction with the audience. For example, many of the characters he played were named “Raj,” so that the audience could see the character as a self-dramatization of Kapoor.
Srinivas Krishna’s installation takes this interactive relationship between Kapoor and his audience to the next level. Patrons can have their photograph taken and Krishna will manipulate an image of a scene from a Kapoor film to place your face on Kapoor’s face – slightly confusing, but highly entertaining.
If you’re looking for a splash introduction to South Asian culture, what better than to attend a wedding? That’s right, you have been cordially invited to Paul and Priya’s wedding; a dinner theatre production starring artists and performers of high regard from the South Asian Canadian community, full of South Asian flavours (including food, clothing, comedy and family drama).
Whether your love affair with South Asian culture stems from the elegance of the colourful and elaborately decorated garments, the intricately designed gems and jewels, the dhol-pounding and tumbi-stringing music, the spiced and aromatic dishes, or the diverse history, politics, religions and diasporas, one thing is for certain – South Asian Canadians provide an abundant resource of culturally charged artwork waiting to be explored. •